Tuesday, September 30, 2003


Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis wonders about the comparatively high percentage of suspected traitors at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. "We now have at least three moles at Gitmo (which isn't all that large a facility), I don't think it's all that implausible to suspect that they might have been working together"  -- that is, two translators and one Muslim chaplain. To put that number in perspective, there are 80 translators at Guantanamo and 12 Muslim chaplains in the US Armed Services. Although the high percentage of suspects among chaplains (as compared to translators) is affected by the small sample size and the unfortunate choice of the institutions chosen to supply the chaplains,  the situation among the translators is also disturbing given that one of the suspects was already "a supply clerk before being pressed into service as a translator at Guantanamo Bay". And there may be more. Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "we don't presume that the two we know about is all there is to it".

Darling explores the possibility that all three were part of the same espionage ring and comes to the tentative conclusion that two of the suspects, were if anything, not working for Syria but Al Qaeda. US authorities for their part, have refused to specifically identify the spymasters, referring to them only as "the enemy".

It would be almost comforting to learn that that the Syrians handled the moles. It would then be a case of a straightforward intelligence penetration. The alternative that Darling suggests would imply a far more spontaneous adherence to militant Islam among American Muslims. The development of sleeper agents is an expensive and long-term proposition. It boggles the imagination to think that Al Qaeda, which funds operations in the sub-million dollar range, would recruit, train and place agents in the US military at this statistical rate. After all, proper agents at Guantanamo would require case officers and a communications plan to pass on information. Syria might do it, but Al Qaeda?

Yet the very amateurishness of the tradecraft -- the chaplain was found with sketches and lists on his person and one translator had classified documents on his person as he arrived at Boston's Logan airport -- suggests that Darling may be right. The Syrians, who were Soviet-bloc trained, would employ dead drops, cutouts and the like. The current crop of suspects sound like walk-ins and raise the possibility that they formed the ring after the fact; that Al Qaeda made contact when they were already in place, and by appealing to their loyalties, turned them.

All the suspects were American citizens; the chaplain native born and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. None were obviously oppressed or disadvantaged by the United States. Their presence in the sanctum sanctorum of the War on Terror, which may represent only the tip of the iceberg, should make everyone hope that the Syrians are "the enemy".

Was Valerie Plame a 'covert' agent?

Andrew Sullivan quotes Robert Novak on the subject of  Valerie Plame's status as a CIA 'operative'. Novak claims that Plame was never endangered because "According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives" -- and by implication suggests that it was not improper or illegal to divulge her connection to the CIA.

The test of a 'covert agent' as defined by 50 USC Section 246 is:

(4) The term ''covert agent'' means -

(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency -

(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and
(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or

(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and -

(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or
(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or

(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency.

A plain layman's reading of the statute suggests there's no distinction drawn between spies and analysts and that Valerie Plame may qualify as a 'covert agent' under (A). Maybe some jurisprudence defines this more narrowly.

If it's any consolation to Novak, he's in the junior leagues when it comes to outing agents, covert or otherwise. A Wired article circa 2000 claimed that:

A freedom of information activist plans to publish online a classified CIA document that was pulled from The New York Times' site after newspaper officials learned it exposed the identities of Iranians involved in the 1953 U.S. and British-backed coup that overthrew Iran's elected officials. The Times used the graphic to accompany an article detailing the coup. In a technical glitch, those who visited the Times website on June 16 were able to read the names of the agents when they downloaded the graphic.

The agents, though probably old men or deceased by now, would qualify as 'covert' under (C). There's a site on the Web called Namebase which purports to list out CIA agents. Namebase identifies itself as part of Public Information Research, incorporated in Virginia, with 501(c)3 status. A domain search shows their site is registered to:

Registrant Name:Daniel Brandt
Registrant Street1:PO Box 680635
Registrant City:San Antonio
Registrant State/Province:Texas

Daniel Brandt is openly identified as a Director of Public Information Research, Namebase's parent, and seems to have nothing to hide, even though he is said to have assisted Philip Agee detail the covert operations of the CIA. So is Novak safe? Were his sources, whoever they may be, acting properly? Lawyers are probably more qualified to determine what is punishable under 50 USC, which supposedly protects the identities of American intelligence agents. But it does seem to involve a few wrinkles. I guess some people are guiltier than others.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Blood Money

What do Steven den Beste, Kyle Markley and Senator Joe Biden (D) all have in common? They're talking about economics and its relationship to terrorism. Biden proposes that a tax be reimposed on the top 1% of American earners to pay for Iraqi reconstruction.

"I haven't found one single wealthy American" who wouldn't be willing to do that, Biden told Fox News. The idea has been gaining steam among his fellow Democrats in the Senate and may be introduced in the House by Congressman Tom Lantos of California.

Despite its headline grabbing qualities, the Biden proposal is in essence 'tax and spend'. No expenditure reductions are proposed, just more taxes to pay for them. In contrast, Steven den Beste suggests a cut to government spending by abolishing farm subsidies. He argues that US and EU farm subsidies lower impoverish poor countries, destroy their domestic food industries by flooding the market with cheaper goods and line the pockets of huge agricultural conglomerates like Archer Daniel Midlands. And they cause resentment. Agricultural subsidies are:

One of the reasons world political support for our strategy has been so low ... Though they don't necessarily see themselves as directly aligned with the Arab nations ... they do see the Arab nations overall right now as being sort of first among our many victims. There's a certain feeling elsewhere that they're all in the same real boat, and have to work together.

Kyle Markley disagrees, though only in part. The crux of his argument is that poor nations have already had time to adjust to subsidies by shifting their production to compete in unsubsidized areas; that the removal of subsidies would have very harsh short term effects by increasing the price of wheat, upon which many starving nations now subsist. Although he doesn't quite say it, others may recall that India and China have prospered dramatically in the last decade by letting their markets shift resources to industries where they could compete, whereas countries like Cuba and the Philippines have continued to persist in commodities like sugar, which will never regain their glories with or without US subsidies.

Both arguments scarcely mention subsidies within the poor countries themselves. China, for example, subsidizes its exports to the world by keeping its exchange rate artificially low. And there are a whole range of sacred cows which are kept alive in poor countries for political and prestige reasons. National airlines, railways, banks, steel mills and other 'flagship' industries, once called 'the commanding heights of the economy' by Marxist academics, are rife in the Third World. Most of them are complete wastes of money.

Yet the discussion touches upon a pretty neglected area of the policy debate. Andrew Sullivan and a number of Republicans have begun to misgive President Bush for his inability to rein in Federal spending. One way to help pay for Iraqi reconstruction without increasing taxes would be to cut US agricultural subsidies and transfer the money to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

But there are other hidden costs and benefits incident to terrorism which continue to remain below the radar screen. The standard Leftist canard of the 1960s, credible to people who grew up without the direct experience of World War 2, was to claim that War Is Good For Business. That its ultimate embodiment was the 'military-industrial complex'. World War 2 was probably an exception, because it used up surplus capacity following a great depression. As people suspect today, war is bad for business. Insurance rates are up, air travel and tourism is down. The stock market is in the dumps. The free movement of labor is restricted. Billions of productive man-hours are used up simply because travelers must show up four hours before a flight instead of two. The exchange of scientific papers is now restricted by Homeland Security considerations. Buildings will be more expensive if they are designed to withstand multiple wide body aircraft crashes. Although Leftists who don't have to work for a living will continue to say that War is Good for Business, anyone with a day job may think otherwise.

It follows then, that really successful campaigns against terrorism will yield economic benefits, just as economic benefits will tend to reinforce the War on Terror. One reason that pump prices may now be falling from their highs is that oil is flowing again in Iraq. And Iraq may be quieting down now that oil revenues are priming the local economy. Anyone who doubts that the economic perspective adds something to the debate would do well to read Christopher Hitchen's review of Bernard-Henri Levy's Who Killed Daniel Pearl? (Hat tip: Winds of Change) with its conclusion: "Islamism is a business" -- in which the WTC victims were merely an externality. That would look good on the flip side of a placard saying 'No Blood for Oil'.

Iraq: hindrance or help?

Phil Carter courageously asserts that the invasion of Iraq may have made the United States less secure. He advances four arguments.

(1) Iraq helps Al Qaeda raise money by providing a 'cause'.
(2) Iraq also helps Al Qaeda build its logistical support infrastructure because it provides a focus for contributions.
(3) The war in Iraq will also produce a generation of trained guerilla fighters for Al Qaeda to recruit as terrorists.
(4) Finally, success breeds success insofar as the Al Qaeda can tout attacks against coalition forces as victories.

Fair enough. Mr. Carter asserts that really telling blows against terrorism are actually the less spectacular activities such as the shutdown of their financial networks and police-type operations against their cells, which he argues are critically dependent on the international sympathy which has been frittered away by the attack on Iraq.

Against this can be set a number of equally reasonable counterarguments.

  1. The Iraq operation has in practice actually enhanced US prestige, as manifested by the cooperativeness of Yemen, the apparent quiescence of Syria, the recent aggressiveness of Saudi Arabia's crack down on extremists and the servility of Libya, which not only agreed to pay compensation to the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, but who were actually willing to revisit an earlier settlement with the French.
  2. The availability of Iraqi basing arrangements which has enabled the US to withdraw its forces from Saudi Arabia, terminate the 'No-Fly Zone' arrangements with Kuwait and Turkey and generally free up its hands to to take a more agressive position vis-a-vis the House of Saud and anyone else in the region. Incident to this, the restoration of Iraqi oil production weakens the petro-power of the Wahabists in Saudi Arabia.
  3. It has been argued elsewhere that there was never any true 'sympathy' for the United States after September 11. However that may be, it may be that international opposition to the US has actually weakened after the Iraq operation because France has proved unwilling to risk another veto to oppose US resolutions in the Security Council; Germany has apparently broken ranks with France; and the UN now accepts its irrelevance and is in the process of drafting a reform package to restore some of its former influence.
  4. Elsewhere, Japan has practically agreed to build a missile defense shield; may participate in a naval embargo of North Korea and may even build its own nuclear weapons. In Korea, the United States is in the process of redeploying away from 50 year old positions in the DMZ. In Europe, the US is drawing down its forces.

All of these suggest that as a practical matter, actual 'sympathy' for the United States has increased as a function of an unspoken international desire not to anger America any further.

Whether the negative factors Mr. Carter lists overcome the effects going the other way is an empirical question, best answered by history than by bald assertion. The only honest thing to do is be aware of the tendencies operating in opposite directions and to revisit the premises a posteriori to assess which was the better call in hindsight.

Would you like flies with that?

Al Qaeda normally tests new methods of attack on relatively minor targets before employing them for a major attack. The idea of flying aircraft into a building was developed as early as 1995. Now they are testing poison. The first tentative essays in poisoning attacks suggest that they will not be the last.

The acting president of the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya was last night fighting for his life after an elaborate attempt to poison him days before crucial presidential elections. The attempt would appear to mark the Chechen rebels' first successful use of poison to attack a Russian official. Poisoning has, until now, been a favourite assassination tool of the Russian secret services in Chechnya. The prominent fundamentalist rebel, Khattab, was killed last year by the Russian secret services in a special operation that involved a messenger being sent to him with a poisoned letter.

Like the airplane attack tactic which brought down the WTC, the technique of murder by poison has its genesis in the fecund mind of Soviet-trained intelligence, many of whose ideas have now been improved on by Islamic militants. The Guardian news report quoted above suggests that the Chechen Islamists, and by extension, Al Qaeda, have access to a relatively slow-acting poison. The Russian official was already en route back when he began to display symptoms of poisoning.

The effects of poisoning the chow line on an aircraft carrier,  a major industrial plant or a major sporting event would come pretty near to the magnitude of a September 11 attack. Such attacks would be very difficult to stop. The recruitment of Johnny Walker Lindh and Yussuf Lee suggest that racial or even religious profiling would be ineffective. Besides, how many major companies or organizations subject their cooks, busboys and kitchen staff to security clearances? Catering companies that serve airlines are not high security facilities either. Yet a poisoned meal served to a series of departing passenger jet liners could cause half a dozen crashes.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Wilson Affair

Just when the Democrats seemed to have the monopoly on self-immolation, this happens:

The Justice Department has opened a preliminary inquiry into whether a Bush Administration official illegally revealed the identity of a CIA employee whose husband criticized the Administration's handling of intelligence on Iraq, TIME has learned. The probe will determine whether to order a full-fledged FBI investigation.

The alleged CIA agent was the wife of  "former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy 'yellowcake' uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons," according to the Washington Post. The vehicle for the leak was "a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials." The implication is that the Bush administration attempted to revenge itself on Joseph Wilson by implying his wife was CIA. This would have the effect of practically preventing any further overseas posting. It would also imply that "two senior administration officials" broke Federal Law by exposing a US intelligence operative's identity, a prospect which Joseph Wilson was alive to, saying "that it is of keen interest to him 'to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.'"

Rove has all but categorically denied it, but not directly. McClellan, who Rove had speak for him, said of Wilson's comments: 'It is a ridiculous suggestion, and it is simply not true.' McClellan was asked about Wilson's charge at a White House briefing Sept. 16 and said the accusation is 'totally ridiculous.'" The tea-leaf readers are taking solace in the fact that Novak described his sources as two "senior administration officials" and not two 'White House officials', which would more naturally describe a person of Rove's position. However, the fact that CIA director George Tenet has requested an investigation into the leak gives the story real legs.

McClellan's denial and his statement that "That is not the way this White House operates, and no one would be authorized to do such a thing" concedes that the leak would be inexcusable in principle. Although it is probably true that Democrats have done worse when in power, that is hardly the standard which should be applied. The Washington Post is reporting that the CIA is assessing whether any of the contacts Joseph Wilson's wife may have met have been endangered. The only ways out of this are if Novak's story were defective or whether someone, not necessarily Karl Rove, is arrested for divulging classified information in time of war.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

The People's War

Well Salam Pax was right. The media was next. In a post dated right after the bombing of mosque at Najaf, he wrote:

Beside the significance of assassinating an Ayatollah these fuckers did it in front of an entrance to Imam Ali’s shrine. What idiot would do that? It is the same question everyone was asking about the bombing of the UN building, what sort of person would do this sort of thing? ... Whoever did this is pure evil. The UN, an assassination in front of Imam Ali’s shrine. You wonder what will come next. If you ask me I think it will be media.

Today, the Baghdad headquarters of NBC news was bombed by persons unknown. The NBC's David Moodie, who was slightly injured in the blast said, "It's not the most secure building. It's on a fairly well-traveled street. There's no sign saying 'NBC News,' but we've got our live position on the roof, and at night it's lit up like a Christmas tree." An Iraqi security guard died in the attack.

Iraqis have been doing a lot of the dying in other news, too. Akila al-Hashemi, a woman member of Iraq's Governing Council, died on from wounds from an earlier assasination attempt. On September 23 another Iraqi security guard died defending the United Nations Baghdad headquarters from another car bombing.

The 'mounting' US casualties so ardently forecast by the Left have not materialized. The targets proved too hard and the terrorist losses too high to make it a working proposition. So the Ba'athist 'resistance' has turned to killing women, minimum wage security guards and newsies. It will take a little while for the media to find an angle that will allow them to cheer this murder of innocents on, but they can be depended on to search until they find a suitable justification. They're good at that.

Yet however the press breathlessly packages it, this pathetic 'guerilla warfare' will fail utterly. For guerilla war to work, it requires a sanctuary for training (liberated base area) and a political arm (national united front). The so called 'resistance' has neither. Terrorist tactics that work in Arab countries where the police are either inept or complicit in their outrages will not succeed where US counterstrike forces are a phone call away. Terrorism against locals creates local enemies. Without a secret police to overawe them, the Iraqis will discover the power of vengeance is simply a phone call away; that life is easier with several thousand dollars in reward money than it is with empty pockets; that since the Ba'athist 'resistance' is out to kill them, they might as well return the courtesy.

Yet the most surprising thread running through the recent attacks is that they can no longer be characterized, except through tortured reasoning, as attacks against occupation forces. They are attacks against Iraqi civil society. From Al Jazeera through to Tikrit the enemy is beginning to see that the greatest threat to their regional hegemony may not be the armored might of the US Army but the subversive example of the burgeoning Iraqi nation. Donald Rumsfeld's remarkable Washington Post piece put it defiantly:

"We are not in Iraq to engage in nation-building -- our mission is to help Iraqis so that they can build their own nation. That is an important distinction.

And despite their pretensions to the contrary the Islamists and the old international guard are beginning to fear that a new and prosperous Iraq whose changes they publicly scorn, might actually be emerging. Rumsfeld continues:

A foreign presence in any country is unnatural. It is much like a broken bone. If it's not set properly at the outset, the muscles and tendons will grow around the break, and eventually the body will adjust to the abnormal condition. This is what has happened in some past nation-building exercises. ... East Timor is one of the poorest countries in Asia, yet the capital is now one of the most expensive cities in Asia. Local restaurants are out of reach for most Timorese and cater to international workers, who are paid 200 times the average local wage. ... Or take Kosovo. A driver shuttling international workers around the capital earns 10 times the salary of a university professor, and the U.N. administration pays its local staff between four and 10 times the salary of doctors and nurses. ... to this day, Kosovar ministers have U.N. overseers with the power to approve or disapprove their decisions.

No one hates a winner like a loser. While it is too early to declare victory, it is probably fair to say that the enemy which trembles at the child's laugh; hisses in hate at woman's achievement; and scorns the man's honest toil has turned his fingers reflexively toward the hilt of the sword, so rampant on his banner. Yet he cannot flail out openly while transfixed in doubt and fear by the shadow of America. And one day, when his intended victims have grown to strength and confidence, he will not be able to strike at all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


The Winds of Change links to a Braden files reprint of an article by Dr. George Friedman entitled "Two Years into the War" (This kind of link chaining is common on the Internet) The main point of this fascinating article is the argument that September 11 was really an attempt "change the internal dynamics of the Islamic world". America was just a cue ball used to move things around.

Al Qaeda's political objective was to set into motion the process that would replace these governments with Islamist regimes. To achieve this, al Qaeda needed a popular uprising in at least some of these countries. But it reasoned that there could be no rising until the Islamic masses recognized that these governments were simply collaborators and puppets of the Christians, Jews and Hindus.

By attacking America, Al-Qaeda reasoned, the US would respond in ways that would destabilize most Arab governments and set the stage for the re-establishment of the Caliphate. And, since "al Qaeda did not achieve its primary mission -- Sept. 11 did not generate a mass uprising in the Islamic world", the Islamists suffered a strategic defeat. That is the essential point. As to the fighting, Dr. Friedman dismisses it as unimportant and inconclusive. "The United States did not defeat the Taliban; knowing it could not defeat U.S. troops in conventional combat -- the Taliban withdrew, dispersed and reorganized as a guerrilla force in the Afghan countryside". Ditto Iraq. America didn't win there either.

In Iraq, the Islamist forces appear to have followed a similar strategy within a much tighter time frame. Rather than continuing conventional resistance, the Iraqis essentially dispersed a small core of dedicated fighters -- joined by an international cadre of Islamists -- and transitioned into guerrilla warfare in a few short weeks after the cessation of major conventional combat operations.

The Whole Thing also emphasizes the political aspects of Islamic terrorism.

The aims of the Islamists may seem fantastical and absurd to us, but they remain political and strategic: Their primary objectives focus on the Islamic world itself and their position within it against whatever forces of relative moderation. For the longer term vis-a-vis the West, they believe themselves directed to seek the conversion or enslavement of non-Muslims, not genocide for its own sake. Whatever a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda chose for their first "demonstration," it would be for the sake of delivering or reinforcing political demands and advancing a power-political agenda, not merely for the sake of murdering infidels

According to this point of view, Islamic terrorism is not irrational at all. Their actions make perfect sense once the framework is understood. We can reinstate the Rational Actor model, with suitable cultural modifications, and create a politic on those terms. This holds out the hope that a nuclear-armed Islamic terrorism can be managed with many of the traditional diplomatic and economic tools. They don't want to destroy America, at least, not any more than the Soviets did in their heyday. All they want is regional power and the revival of their historical Caliphate.

Mark Helprin at the Claremont Institute (hat tip: Winds of Change) rightly points out that Islam is never listed as a formal belligerent, though of course it is what we are really talking about. He says we should first of all, nerve ourselves to name it, then conciously adopt a strategy to fight it:

The proper strategic objective for the West, therefore, is the suppression of this fire of 'asabiya in the Arab heartland and citadels of militancy—a task of division, temporary domination, and, above all, demoralization. As unattractive as it may seem, in view of the deadly alternative it is the only choice other than to capitulate.

Here, as in the Whole Thing and Friedman the political question is put in the center of the problem. However, Helprin clearly understands that we are at war: that if we do not divide, dominate and demoralize the Islamic world, then we must surrender to it. Here he apparently parts company with Friedman, who seems to regard America as just a means to the final end in an internal struggle for the domination of the Islamic world. However, Helprin's recipe for overawing the Islamic world is a little short on detail. It reproduced here in its entirety so that the reader can make of it what they will.

The war in Iraq was a war of sufficiency when what was needed was a war of surplus, for the proper objective should have been not merely to drive to Baghdad but to engage and impress the imagination of the Arab and Islamic worlds on the scale of the thousand-year war that is to them, if not to us, still ongoing. Had the United States delivered a coup de main soon after September 11 and, on an appropriate scale, had the president asked Congress on the 12th for a declaration of war and all he needed to wage war, and had this country risen to the occasion as it has done so often, the war on terrorism would now be largely over.

These points of view may well be right. It would be comforting if they were. And perhaps they are. If a little more diplomacy, a few regional security pacts and well-timed shock-and-awe will quell the fires of militancy, then we can put this incident behind us before the second quarter of the 21st century and go on to curing disease and exploring the secrets of the universe. Certainly the War on Terror cannot be won by arms alone, and as Helprin says, not before naming the foe. So can we dismiss James Lilek's fear of the annihilation of an American city yet? Hopefully ... but there is always something a little dangerous about dismissing a foe's stated intent or underestimating his will to achieve it. Amir Taheri points out that Al-Qaeda's stated intent is crystal clear: converting all humanity to Islam and effacing the final traces of all other religions, creeds and ideologies. What part of that don't we understand and what part of that can we safely ignore?

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Reader responses to The Three Conjectures

A reader, Shane, observes that any proliferation of WMDs among Islamic terrorists would involve European or American citizens. "There are lots of Muslims in the West willing to take up the cause," Shane observes. Including some from West Point If a nuclear attack on New York were planned and executed by an Islamic group based in Paris, could America even retaliate? Not without going to war with France, believes Shane, or issuing an ultimatum for French action. "Old Europe has shown that it is unwilling to see the threat for what it is. There is also little reason to think that their perceptions would change with a nuclear attack on an American city." Unilateral action by the United States could precipitate "a nuclear exchange between Western powers (France and the U.S.)"

That scenario would seem to invalidate the total retaliation model predicted by the Three Conjectures or the Four Tier schema proposed by Caerdroia. But does it? Not in its essentials. Shane's observation confirms rather than disproves the guts of the Second Conjecture: that the acquisition of WMDs by Islamic terrorists guarantees an uncontrollable escalation of WMD exchanges leading to the destruction of Islam, and much else besides. Clearly the United States would have to act in Shane's scenario: it could not simply await a second attack, the French Force de Frappe be damned. And France would also be compelled into action. It could not long tolerate nuclear weapons in private hands on French territory. In the end everyone would act, and act too late.

The Third Conjecture holds that all our degrees of freedom are contained in the current War on Terror. After this "Golden Hour" our actions will be severely constrained. In fact, once terrorists have acquired a steady source of WMDs, we will have no freedom of action at all. Or rather, the US will have as much room to maneuver as at that nightmare moment, envisioned during the Cold War, when NORAD might detect several thousand Soviet MIRVs inbound over the North Pole. In that instant, which thankfully never happened, the entire concept of choice would have become an illusion. The dreadful mechanism of retaliation would go into automatic effect with humans providing only the counterfeit of control. It follows that the War on Terror must not fail. Not if mankind is to live; not if the Muslim world is going to survive. Our current efforts carry the whole burden of future hopes and if we falter nothing will be left but to witness the consequences of our failure.

Shane deserves to know why old Europe "is unwilling to see the threat for what it is." The short answer is that America shields them from it. There is an obscure branch of mathematical economics called hedonic cooperation structures. It is the study of how coalitions are formed. In a world solely consisting of Europe and Islam, no coalition would form between them, because the threat posed by Islam to Europe would outweigh any benefit. But if America were added to the equation, a three-node graph would emerge and Europe would coalesce with Islam because they could reap the benefits of cooperation with Muslim nations while remaining shielded by the presence of America from any downside. During the ten years following the Desert Storm, the French did just that. They enriched themselves in Oil for Food deals while the United States spent blood and treasure to keep Saddam in his cage. Paradoxically, the more successfully America prosecutes the War on Terror the less willing old Europe will be to see a threat. America will have taken care of it. Hence we see Jacques Chirac demanding UN control over Iraq even as France is unwilling to bear the slightest cost in maintaining the peace. France has become very small and it aspires to become smaller still.

Yet that does not change the fact that this is the Golden Hour, the hour of hope, though for America it may seem nothing more than unremitting labor and pain. And all across the nation, young men and women are saying goodbye to their families for extended deployments in words that are really Frodo's at the last council in Rivendell: "I will bear the Ring, though I do not know the way".

Postscript to the Three Conjectures

The emergence of a genuine terrorist WMD capability would represent a decoupling of the nuclear monopoly from states. This should be distinguished from the circumstance of a stolen weapon, which once used, can never be replenished in the terrorist arsenal. It refers specifically to the ability of private, clandestine, extremist groups to sustainably manufacture nuclear, biological or chemical weapons for their own use. The Three Conjectures argued that such a capability would be very difficult for a terrorist organization to achieve without the help of a state due to the engineering difficulties attendant to the development process. That was the good news.

The bad news was that terrorists if left alone would eventually succeed in obtaining it. And once the WMD manufacturing process were commoditized and grasped by terrorists, all control over WMD manufacture and use would be lost to governments, even the one that gave it to the terrorist organization in the first place. The Three Conjectures further argued that this kind of power, once set loose, would consume Islam itself. Either the terrorist weapons would provoke a catastrophic response against the Muslim world or they would be used in the internecine struggles of the Islam, making the huge bomb detonated outside the Najaf mosque seem like a firecracker by comparison. The appearance of an Islamic WMD capability would hang like a comet of doom over the whole Muslim world.

It would not be the first time that the inner contradictions of a civilization, taken to their limit, have killed it. Something in the expansionist and militant hubris of 19th century Europe led the continent to the mindless mud and trenches of the Great War. The Lost Generation died by Europe's own hand. Now it is Islam coming face to face with a challenge of how to handle the true divine fire. And the real dilemma is that the power behind the light of the stars is incompatible with the framework bequeathed by Mohammed. It may be the turn of the Faithful to die by Islam's own hand unless it can listen to the word that speaks from the very heart of the flame.

And that message, surprisingly, is that we must love one another or die. J. Robert Oppenheimer thought, as he beheld the fireball of the first atomic test at Alamogordo, that he heard the Hindu god Shiva whisper "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds". He understood at that moment that mankind's moral capacity would have to expand to match its technical prowess or it would perish. If Islam desires the secret of the stars it must embrace the kuffar as its brother -- or die.


Friday, September 19, 2003

The Three Conjectures

A Pew poll finds 40% of Americans worry that an US city will be destroyed by a terrorist nuclear attack . James Lileks thinks the annihilation of a city is a dead certainty and will only mark the start of a long, wearying struggle against Islamists armed with nuclear car bombs.

The imminence of the threat is open to debate. Despite the perception that technological diffusion has put weapons of mass destruction within easy reach of Islamic terrorists -- the cliché of a mullah brewing anthrax in a cave -- terrorist weapons remain at the 1970s level. The Al-Qaeda attack on the September 11 was the most sophisticated terrorist assault in history. Yet it did not employ any new technological elements, just the creative use of old techniques like the airline hijacking. High explosives,  small arms, and poison gas still comprise the terrorist arsenal. 

The limiting factor is the lack of terrorist engineering resources to make sophisticated weaponry. The principles of ballistics, explosive chemistry and aeronautics needed to make combat aircraft are well known; but groups like Al Qaeda don't have the personnel, facilities and secure environment to turn the concepts into a working object and so have no combat aircraft. Making a uranium A-bomb of the simplest kind is comparable in complexity to manufacturing a Douglas DC-3, even given the fissile materials. But the SAFF (Safing, Arming, Fuzing, and Firing) issues alone pretty much ensure that it cannot be developed from a mullah's cave. US weapons are one point safe -- with less than a one in a million chance of detonating accidentally if their explosive primers were improperly activated. Unless the Islamists engineer similar precautions, their weapons would be unusable. The safety record of terrorist bomb factories and the history of prematurely detonating car bombs would see Islamabad vaporized before Manhattan. Analogous problems exist for biological weaponry. There are no Biosafety Level 4 facilities in tribal areas or tents in North Africa and an accidental plague that wiped out the population of the Middle East would hardly help the Islamist cause. Only a state  in the near term -- Pakistan, Iran or North Korea -- will have the manufacturing resources and secure territory to make the weapon that Lileks and the Pew respondents fear.

Conjecture 1: Terrorism has lowered the nuclear threshold

These obstacles to terrorist capability are the sole reason that the War on Terror has not yet crossed the nuclear theshold, the point at which enemies fight each other with weapons of mass destruction. The terrorist intent to destroy the United States, at whatever cost to themselves, has been a given since September 11. Only their capability is in doubt. This is an inversion of the Cold War situation when the capability of the Soviet Union to destroy America was given but their intent to do so, in the face of certain retaliation, was doubtful. Early warning systems, from the DEW Line of the 1950s to the Defense Support Satellites were merely elaborate mechanisms to ascertain Soviet intent. That put the Cold War nuclear threshold rather high. Even the launch of a few multimegaton warheads at US targets or a nuclear exchange between forces at sea would not necessarily precipitate Central Nuclear War if American national command authority was convinced that the Soviet strike was accidental or could be met with a proportional response; in other words, without the intent to initiate an all out nuclear exchange, there would be none.

In stark contrast, the nuclear threshold against a terrorism may be crossed once they get the capability to attack with weapons of mass destruction. Unlike the old early warning systems, designed to gauge Soviet intent, the intelligence systems of the War on Terror are meant to measure capability. The relevant Cold War question was 'do they intend to use the Bomb?'.  In the War on Terror, the relevant question is simply 'do they have the Bomb?' This puts the nuclear threshold very low. Just how low was empirically demonstrated in the days immediately following the September 11, when it was reported that the United States had considered -- and rejected -- a nuclear response to the World Trade Center attacks. The threshold had almost been crossed. However that may be, we now know from National Security Presidential Directive 17  that a terrorist WMD attack, including biologicals and chemicals, will go over the line:

"terrorist groups are seeking to acquire WMD with the stated purpose of killing large numbers of our people and those of friends and allies -- without compunction and without warning. ... The United States ... reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -- including through resort to all of our options -- to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."

Some reports have suggested that the US would preemptively use tactical nuclear weapons -- bunker busters -- to destroy terrorist WMDs. We're no longer in Kansas.  In the halcyon days of the Cold War Soviet boomers would cruise the American coast with hundreds of nuclear weapons unmolested by the US Navy.  Now a single Al Qaeda tramp freighter bound for New York carrying a uranium fission weapon would be ruthlessly attacked. The taboo which held back generations from mass murder has been mentally crossed by radical Islam and their hand gropes uncertainly for the dagger.

Conjecture 2: Attaining WMDs will destroy Islam

This fixity of malice was recognized in President Bush's West Point address in the summer of 2002, when he concluded that "deterrence -- the promise of massive retaliation against nations -- means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend." The enemy was equally indifferent to inducement or threat. Neither making nice -- Jimmy Carter's withdrawal from Iran, Reagan's abandonment of Lebanon, Bush's defense of Saudi Arabia, Clinton's rescue of Albanian Muslims from Serbian genocide, the payment of billions in aid to Egypt and Pakistan -- nor the gravest of threats would alter the enemy's intent to utterly destroy and enslave America. Allah had condemned America. The Faithful only had to find the means to carry out the execution.

Because capability is the sole variable of interest in the war against terrorism, the greater the Islamic strike capability becomes, the stronger the response will be. An unrepeatable attack with a stolen WMD weapon would elicit a different response from one arising from a capability to strike on a sustained and repetitive basis. The riposte to an unrepeatable attack would be limited. However, suppose Pakistan or North Korea engineered a reliable plutonium weapon that could be built to one-point safety in any machine shop with a minimum of skill, giving Islamic terrorists the means to repeatedly attack America indefinitely. Under these circumstances, there would no incentive to retaliate proportionately. The WMD exchange would escalate uncontrollably until Islam was destroyed.

Consider a case where Islamic terrorists obliterate a city, causing five times the deaths at Hiroshima and an American limited response.

Iteration Non-Islamic Losses Islamic Losses
1 - 5 x 10^5 -2 x 10^6
Total - 5 x 10^5 -2 x 10^6

In a war between nations, the conflict might stop at this point. But since there is no one with whom to negotiate a peace and no inclination to stop anyhow, the Islamic terrorists will continue while they have the capability and the cycle of destruction continues.

Iteration Non-Islamic Losses Islamic Losses
1 - 5 x 10^5 -2 x 10^6
2 - 1 x 10^6 -5 x 10^6
3 - 5 x 10^6 -1.5 x 10^7
4 - 8 x 10^6 -3.0 x 10^7
5 - 1.5 x 10^7 -5.0 x 10^7
Total - 2.95 x 10^7 -10.2 x 10^7

At this point, a United States choked with corpses could still not negotiate an end to hostilities or deter further attacks. There would be no one to call on the Red Telephone, even to surrender to. In fact, there exists no competent Islamic authority, no supreme imam who could stop a jihad on behalf of the whole Muslim world. Even if the terror chiefs could somehow be contacted in this apocalyptic scenario and persuaded to bury the hatchet, the lack of command and control imposed by the cell structure would prevent them from reining in their minions. Due to the fixity of intent, attacks would continue for as long as capability remained. Under these circumstances, any American government would eventually be compelled by public desperation to finish the exchange by entering -1 x 10^9 in the final right hand column: total retaliatory extermination.

Iteration Non-Islamic Losses Islamic Losses
1 - 5 x 10^5 -2 x 10^6
2 - 1 x 10^6 -5 x 10^6
3 - 5 x 10^6 -1.5 x 10^7
4 - 8 x 10^6 -3.0 x 10^7
5 - 1.5 x 10^7 -5.0 x 10^7
6 0 -8.93 x 10^8
Total - 2.95 x 10^7 -1 x 10^9

The so-called strengths of Islamic terrorism: fanatical intent; lack of a centralized leadership; absence of a final authority and cellular structure guarantee uncontrollable escalation once the nuclear threshold is crossed. Therefore the 'rational' American response to the initiation of terrorist WMD attack would be all out retaliation from the outset. 

Iteration Non-Islamic Losses Islamic Losses
1 - 5 x 10^5 -1 x 10^9
Total - 5 x 10^5 -1 x 10^9

James Lileks and the Pew respondents would not lose America; but like the boogeyman in Seven, Islam would take it's soul. The most startling result of this analysis is that a catastrophic outcome for Islam is guaranteed whether America retaliates or not. Even if the President decided to let all Americans die to expiate their historical guilt, why would Islamic terrorists stop after that? They would move on to Europe and Asia until finally China, Russia, Japan, India or Israel, none of them squeamish, wrote -1 x 10^9 in the final right hand column. They too would be prisoners of the same dynamic, and they too have weapons of mass destruction.

Even if Islam killed every non-Muslim on earth they would almost certainly continue to kill each other with their new-found weaponry. Revenge bombings between rival groups and wars between different Islamic factions are the recurring theme of history. Long before 3,000 New Yorkers died on September 11, Iraq and Iran killed 500,000 Muslims between them. The greatest threat to Muslims is radical Islam; and the greatest threat of all is a radical Islam armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Conjecture 3: The War on Terror is the 'Golden Hour' -- the final chance

It is supremely ironic that the survival of the Islamic world should hinge on an American victory in the War on Terror, the last chance to prevent that terrible day in which all the decisions will have already been made for us. That effort really consists of two separate aspects: a campaign to destroy the locus of militant Islam and prevent their acquisition of WMDs; and an attempt to awaken the world to the urgency of the threat. While American arms have proven irresistible, much of Europe, as well as moderates in the Islamic world, remain blind to the danger and indeed increase it. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad recently "told an international conference of young Muslim leaders ... (that) ... Muslims must acquire skills and technology so they can create modern weapons and strike fear into the hearts of our enemies". Fecklessness and gunpowder are a lethal combination. The terrible ifs accumulate.


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Et in Arcadia Ego Sum

There is no sanctuary. Repeat, there is no sanctuary. Radical Islamists don't care whether you are an Israeli soldier or their Leftist 'friend'. They will kill you just the same.

JERUSALEM, Sept. 9 — Two Palestinian suicide bombers killed at least 13 people in separate attacks today, striking a popular café in Jerusalem's most left-leaning neighborhood and a bus stop crowded with soldiers southeast of Tel Aviv. ...  In the first attack, during the evening rush hour in Tsrifin, a man carrying a leather bag detonated a bomb packed with hardware at a bus stop beside an army base. ...Less than six hours later, another bomber blew himself apart when a guard confronted him just inside the door of Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem, the police said. The cafe is in the so-called German Colony, a neighborhood known as the city's most dovish, secular area.

The Left should have figured that Osama was out to get them on September 11, when he targeted New York instead of Salt Lake City. Those who missed the point might have caught on when a truck bomb demolished the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The Islamist war against Marxist Algeria, which kills 150 people a day might have suggested that they too, were on the jihad hit parade. But the Left is clueless, so it was hardly surprising to hear Howard Dean say in response to recent attacks in Israel that "it's not our place to take sides", little reckoning that Islam may have already assigned Howard Dean his 'side' whatever he says, whatever he does.

Time and again terrorist groups have swept aside everyone who stood in their path, including all the 'reasonable' people, all the people who were their 'friends'. During the British Mandate the terrorist group al-Husseini liquidated "the mayor of Hebron ,the mukhtar of Caeserea and Hassan Sidqi al-Dajani, one of the most prominent members of the Jerusalem Municipal Council - all men who could have played a vital role in accepting, rather than rejecting the UN Partition Plan of 1947. Many other political leaders who fled would never return"  just because that Partition Plan simply gave them preponderance and not total domination over the Jews. Recently Yasser Arafat rejected an Israeli offer of 95% of the West Bank and Gaza as inadequate and his minions have executed every Palestinian who disagrees. Nothing changes their minds, even the facts. Although America has destroyed 2/3 of Al-Qaeda its goal remains confidently unchanged: "converting all humanity to Islam and 'effacing the final traces of all other religions, creeds and ideologies.' " Whatever you say, whatever you do.

That monomaniacal behavior might impress Howard Dean, but it is really a devastating weakness for anyone with the wit to exploit it. Radical Islam's enemies don't have to deal with a cunning, rational opponent who will strive to maximize benefit and minimize loss. All they must do is anticipate an irrational opponent whose behavior stays the same whatever you do. Radical Islam always does its worst, whether you are nice to them or not.  And that makes things simple. As argued in Are suicide attacks the 'ultimate weapon'?, this psychotic behavior makes Islamism do foolish, predictable things. It makes them play the long odds; play zero-sum games they cannot win. It forces them into behavior which is not in their interest.

On a strategic level, Islamic madness manufactures stalwart enemies where none would exist. They make it easy to maintain a sustained opposition to terror because jihadi outrages remind everyone  -- except the Left -- what happens if we relax. If India, Russia and Israel are sharing intelligence today we can thank Osama. Even tactically, Islamic irrationality raises up resistance where there would otherwise be submission. Ever wonder why Islam's enemies never surrender to it? Can you think of of a reason why Jessica Lynch's 507th Maintenance truck drivers and mechanics fought with greater ferocity than the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion which surrendered to to the Waffen SS at Malmedy? Come on Liberals, can you think? Can you think why the US 106th Division surrendered  en masse to the Germans in 1944 while six British military policemen fought in Iraq, 2003 until they were out of ammunition -- and were executed as they put up their empty hands. Can you think of why it was a mistake to put up their hands? Even the pathetically inept Armed Forces of the Philippines routinely fights to the death against the Islamic foe. Just how simple life is when fighting Islamic terrorism was illustrated by Todd Beamer on Flight 93. Islam can do what no drill sergeant ever did: convert the saddest of sacks, whether Filipino soldiers, underpaid Russian conscripts, Indian Jawans, US Army truck drivers or airline passengers into regular Davy Crocketts at the Alamo. By contrast most so-called Jihadis are almost indecently eager to surrender. Guantanamo Bay, with 600 Al-Qaeda, is scheduled for expansion as more Islamic warriors wait to surrender. Did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Hambali fight to the death? No. They surrendered because they knew, absolutely knew that they would not have to utter words like "my mother was a Jew" before having their throats slit on video.

President George Bush's success against terrorism is less due to brilliance than the astute realization that radical Muslims are as dumb as rocks. Dig a pit and watch them come. Max Boot recounts how Iraqi jihadis "would charge M1A1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns. Sometimes the tanks would not even bother to open fire; they would simply roll over the attacking vehicles. The "dead-enders" died by the thousands; few U.S. troops were killed." Nothing is more reliable than Islamic hatred. What could be reliably dumber than that? Can you think, Left, can you think? Well, the Liberal prescription for fighting the German Colony bombers is set forth by Judyth Hill:

Wage Peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble.
Breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red-wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
Breathe out sleeping children and fresh mown fields.
... Make soup.

As Howard Dean says, "it's not our place to take sides".

Monday, September 08, 2003

Response to a Reader

A gentleman from California responded to The Unthinkable with questions of his own,

Q: But that leads me to ask, what is the value of our nuclear "deterrent"? Whom does it deter? I suggest the nuclear deterrent now has no value. It deters no one because everyone knows it will never be used except against a nation state that initiates a general nuclear attack against the U. S.

A. Traditional deterrence works pretty well against nations which might initiate "a general nuclear attack against the U. S.". North Korea, China and Russia fall under this heading. To that extent, existing nuclear strategies will remain useful. But it might not deter a terrorist attack. Deterrence was designed against the rational enemy nation state. Terrorists are neither.  The Unthinkable was an attempt to identify the characteristics of a doctrine that would work against a catastrophic terrorist threat.

Q: Are you suggesting that we build the "Doomsday Bomb" from Dr. Strangelove? I doubt that is what you mean to say, but it sure sounds like it. I don't buy that and I think there are other alternatives we should consider ... Consider an alternative ... to disarm, not unilaterally but multilaterally ... I do not know how much we spend on nuclear weapons and systems, but ... Let's suppose we dedicated that to increased conventional military forces and unconventional means of combating the ideas and beliefs that threaten us. That would make a substantial difference to the war on terror.

A. The entire War on Terror has been an attempt to find a conventional solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism so that America never has to decide what to do in the event of a terrorist nuclear strike. But if it took place, what then? The existing nuclear deterrent will have failed and conventional forces would be inadequate to prevent a second, third or nth attack. There must be a riposte and we should think it through in advance of the contingency.

A purely physical response, with all moral considerations excluded, would consist of destroying every possible mode of enemy power -- doomsday for Islam. But as The Unthinkable points out, even this extreme response may not be enough. Islamic terror could continue to operate from secret cells in Europe or America itself. Well, we could try discriminating biological agents, but even so, a new set of adherents could regenerate itself from the ashes of the old. Logically, then, while we are bound to prepare for this eventuality -- doomsday for Islam -- there is no real guarantee that it would ultimately work. The most that can be expected of comprehensive retaliatory extermination will be a very hollow victory, comparable to calling artillery fires on your own position thirty seconds before your own demise to bury the enemy with you. But at least the problem is bounded. America can guarantee that Islam will not triumph i.e. "cannot reach the stars", even though it cannot assure a positive victory for itself.

To win a positive victory, the United States must win the war of ideas and beliefs. Radical Islam is an evil meme which cannot be physically destroyed although it can be culturally and intellectually discredited. Therefore the preferred solution, is "to continue the fight it conventionally, with weapons wielded by men and by sowing subversive ideas into the dark recesses of its caves, with the hope, but never the assurance of ultimate victory". That is, to continue the War on Terror under the current lines. We hope to win, but those who seek assurance will not find it in statistical or technological inevitability.

I hope this helps, and thank you for writing.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The Unthinkable

Stanley Kurtz of the National Review argues that the United States is on the "path to war" with North Korea, however it tries to avoid it, because of the pathological nature of the Kim Jong Il regime.  Parapundit concludes that the "most likely outcome continues to be that we first lose an American city to a terrorist nuke attack and only then attack North Korea for having helped proliferate nukes to the point where some ended up in terrorist hands." That whatever the determination to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, it is perhaps probable that these devices will eventually be acquired and used by terrorist groups.

There has been little open discussion on what should constitute American retaliatory doctrine in the event of a terrorist nuclear attack except in the leftist press, which largely takes the view that the mere preparation of a retaliatory plan would be provocative in itself; that if we unilaterally disarm and curl into a ball, the enemy will scorn to destroy us. The Left has considered the issue to the extent of reciting old clichés.

That is more than be said of the silence on this subject in respectable circles. During the Cold War "the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Air Force devised the Single Integrated Operational Plan [SIOP]" to guide a US response to a Soviet nuclear attack. But what has taken its place? In a situation when a nuclear terrorist attack may be probable and not deterrable, a new doctrine and plan are obviously needed. Yet we see no sign of it and the public would be poorly served if the principal issues were not debated and scrutinized with the greatest care. Any pre-emptive or retaliatory strategy would have to address these unique circumstances.

  1. A nuclear terrorist attack may not be acknowledged by any state. The fissile fingerprint may point to stolen or "lost" nuclear materials.
  2. The terrorist enemy may not be deterred, only enraged, by any subsequent retaliation.
  3. Any preemption or retaliation would have to effectively prevent a subsequent attack on the United States for the foreseeable future. It would be pointless to inflict millions of casualties in retaliation unless the ends could be achieved. The political, economic and human costs would be so high that only a long-term peace dividend would justify it.
  4. It must account for the possibility that a major nuclear power may be the covert sponsor of the attack.
  5. The terrorist enemy may be based in friendly (European) countries, or even within North America or the United States.

These constraints make the formulation of a pre-emptive or retaliatory doctrine very difficult. Points 2 and 3 almost rule out a limited response. One obvious option would be a full retaliatory extermination -- killing every known Muslim on the planet -- a billion deaths -- as a comprehensive response to nuclear jihad. A variant would set extermination as a theoretical extreme attainable in a series of steps that can be mounted as needed, though it is difficult to see how the enmities once begun by the first steps can be quelled unless taken to the limit. And extermination can never be final for an idea cannot be physically destroyed and may reappear again.

The problems attendant to Point 4 return us to the old, almost comforting conundrums of Mutual Assured Destruction, unsolvable but familiar. The problems arising from Point 5 can be addressed by some form of tailored biological agent, and we will leave it at that.

What are we to make of a pressing contingency whose only apparent solutions would make Hitler proud? The urge to look away from these ugly thoughts is overwhelming, until we realize that the enemy has compelled us to consider them or die. The real power of Islamic jihad lies not in its destructive means, as some have mistakenly held, but in the bottomless depth of its hatred, its total indifference to any known historical standard of decency which makes anyone who would confront it descend into the very pit of Hell. The necromancers of Islam have unleashed a dark spirit upon the world and we must struggle to contain it without becoming infected by its malice.

The only sane way forward is do our best and trust to luck, or for those who prefer, to trust in God. We cannot create a retaliatory "doctrine" of such monstrous proportions as extermination except to ensure that in the event of our own annihilation this Thing spawned on earth cannot reach the stars. But for policy we can only to continue the fight it conventionally, with weapons wielded by men and by sowing subversive ideas into the dark recesses of its caves, with the hope, but never the assurance of ultimate victory. It perhaps ironical that in opening days of the 21st century, the power of physical science should prove so helpless in a battle where ideas and beliefs are the only substantial things; and hope so forlorn that it can only be sustained by the expectation of grace.

Islam and the End of the Left

One of the principal lieutenants of Osama Bin Laden, Yussuf al-Ayyeri, describes the victorious struggle of Islam against the proudest ideological doctrines of the Europe. In a new book published by Al Qaeda entitled "The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad", Ayyeri narrates how Islam has triumphed over Marxism. The Iranian journalist Amir Taheri, summarizes the main points. 

Al-Ayyeri argues that the history of mankind is the story of "perpetual war between belief and unbelief." ... As far as belief is concerned, the absolutely final version is represented by Islam, which "annuls all other religions and creeds." Thus, Muslims can have only one goal: converting all humanity to Islam and "effacing the final traces of all other religions, creeds and ideologies."

...various forms of unbelief attacked the world of Islam in the past century or so, to be defeated in one way or another. The first form of unbelief to attack was "modernism" ... which led to the emergence in the lands of Islam of states based on ethnic identities and territorial dimensions rather than religious faith. The second was nationalism, which, imported from Europe, divided Muslims into Arabs, Persians, Turks and others. ... The third form of unbelief is socialism, which includes communism. That, too, has been defeated and eliminated from the Muslim world, Al-Ayyeri asserts. 

The Left, long accustomed to seeing itself as the vanguard of history, has been definitively rejected in its strongholds: first in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union where it once controlled entire states, and now by the Arabian secret societies and terrorist organizations which formerly took it as their ideological creed. It is now rotting garbage in the dustbin of history, and survives artificially only in the sheltered precincts of western academia and bohemia the way a dying sect lingers in isolated deserts. Although still capable of mischief, as David Horowitz warns us, the Left has lost all physical power of self defense. Its Bolshevik core is dead. Should the United States Armed Forces somehow be overcome by the Islamists, the Left would be helpless to prevent its inquisition, torment and extermination at the hands of a vengeful Muslim world.

The hollowing out of the Left -- the death of its Bolshevik core -- is one of the great unwritten stories of the late twentieth century. The decline of the cadre of professional revolutionaries at its center was simultaneously matched by the inrush from the periphery of the network of sympathizers, fellow travelers and "useful fools" which it once adopted as protective coloration. It was a classic case of the inmates taking over an asylum from which the keepers had fled. To appreciate the difference one can compare the Communist cadres faithfully depicted in For Whom the Bell Tolls or And Quiet Flows the Don or even Silone's Bread and Wine  with the freak show of autonomists,  zapatistas, rage-against-the-machine cultists, transgender spokespersons, abortion rights activists,  militant gay and lesbians and tattered academics that characterize today's Left. The former, who seized power in the vast spaces of Europe and Asia, were practical revolutionaries who lived by strict democratic centralism. The latter have never even heard of Party discipline, confining their 'militance' to marching with their ass cheeks protruding from spangled underpants or affecting obnoxious attitudes while wearing adolescent masks. The current Left even lacks the capability to establish a viable underground organization -- child's play to the generation of Borodin, Tan Malacca and Ho Chi Minh. The organizational memory has gone clear out of its core. The Red Brigades of 1969 could probably not be created today. To experience any real militancy, today's Left wing activists must attach themselves as pathetic dogs to Islamic causes like the International Solidarity Movement. There, they can indulge their fantasy of advancing world socialism while objectively dying for Osama Bin Laden or Yasser Arafat. The circle is complete. The roles have been reversed. The heirs to moribund Bolshevism have now become the "useful fools", the protective coloration of a dynamic militant Islamism.

The decline of the Left was preceded by its comprehensive vulgarization. The Leftists of the generations of Beatrice Webb, Eric Hobsbawn, Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy and even Joan Robinson actually believed in "scientific socialism" and seriously debated such issues as the correct calculation of the surplus value of labor and the role of money in Communism. The Marxism of that era was regarded as a potentially exact science, capable of accurately predicting social trends and even human behavior. It was treated seriously. As late as the 1970s, Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was regarded as a scientific guide to action in the same sense that a trigonometry textbook contained formulas for the solution of angles, given the sides of a triangle. One wonders what Lenin would have made of the current coterie of abortion activists, transgenerational sex promoters, tree huggers or the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, all of whom would fall in the Big Tent of today's Left. It is doubtful whether such a menagerie would even understand the meaning of "dialectical materialism" except in the most degenerate terms. Like a fish, Western Communism has been rotting from the head downwards for many decades. Its putrefaction is complete.

Already pronounced dead by Al Qaeda, the Left continues to get colder by the minute as it loses its remaining lifeblood to Islam. Since Islam is unlikely to hold any attractions to conservatives, it will gain membership largely at the expense of Left. In business terminology, both the Left and militant Islam are competing for the same market of addled, alienated and resentful individuals. That market share will be dominated by the party with the better product and the most competitive advantages. That is undoubtedly Islam, with an ideology of 11 centuries standing, vast financial resources and an infrastructure of action. Against this, the Left can only set its fading strongholds in the academe and the western mass media. Fading as the aging cohort of Leftist baby-boomers is edged out by increasingly conservative younger people, as the Eurosocialist nations age and decline in population. Leftist attempts to compensate by allying themselves with Islam will only accelerate their downfall as the madrassas cannibalize the faltering socialist base. The weaker the Left becomes, the more dependent it is on alliances with Islam. The closer its alliances with Islam, the weaker the Left becomes. By and by, the Left will have nothing left to offer their allies. The Taliban did not even make a pretense of sparing the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women from persection.  Al Jazeera is already buying media outlets in the west.  Islam is creating endowments at Harvard and establishing a network of community schools. How much longer can the Left offer its decrepit wares, hobbling forward, not to the expected Historical Dawn but only deeper into the crypt of forgotten beliefs?

The Iranian journalist Taheri continues:

What Al-Ayyeri sees now is a "clean battlefield" in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief. This, he labels "secularist democracy." This threat is "far more dangerous to Islam" than all its predecessors combined. The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy's "seductive capacities." ... "If democracy comes to Iraq, the next target [for democratization] would be the whole of the Muslim world," Al-Ayyeri writes.

The corpse of the Left has already been twitched aside by Islam, which refers to it only in the past tense. All that remains in its path is the United States of America, behind whom the feeble stragglers from Marxism's golden age shelter, still resentful, still self-important and still contemptible.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Through a Glass Darkly

Phil Carter has asked whether the ground forces assigned to topple the Saddam Hussein were adequate for the job of reconstructing Iraq and defeating the terrorists in that country. In July, 2003, he quoted Tom Ricks of the Washington Post who reported that others were thinking the same thing:

a growing number of military specialists, and some lawmakers, are voicing concern about trends in Iraq. There is even some quiet worry at the Pentagon, where some officers contend privately that the size of the U.S. deployment in Iraq -- now about 150,000 troops -- is inadequate for force protection, much less for peacekeeping. The Army staff is reexamining force requirements and looking again at the numbers generated in the months before the war, said a senior officer who asked not to be named.

Mr. Carter agreed, saying: "If I were a planner again... I'd recommend ...  Boost the U.S. troop presence, because you're going to need a lot more boots on the ground in order to properly secure the American footprint in Iraq." That issue had been raised about the conventional phase of fighting itself. The Washington Post's Vernon Loeb reported on March 30, 2003 that:

Current and former U.S. military officers are blaming Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his aides for the inadequate troop strength on the ground in Iraq, saying the civilian leaders "micromanaged" the deployment plan out of mistrust of the generals and an attempt to prove their own theory that a light, maneuverable force could handily defeat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

But although Saddam's conventional forces were defeated with the forces at hand, doubts regarding the force adequacy for pacification and reconstruction remained. A new book by former Secretary of the Army Tom White puts it bluntly (hat tip: Phil Carter) "We did not conduct the war this way and we should not continue rebuilding the country in a haphazard manner ... It is quite clear in the immediate aftermath of hostilities that the plan for winning the peace is totally inadequate." Although the criticism includes such aspects as clarity of purpose, planning and competence, the issue of troop strength remains central to the debate. Democratic Presidential hopeful John McCain openly called for more U.S. troops as well as dramatically more spending to make postwar Iraq peaceful enough for democracy to unfold according to the Washington Post.

'More troops', but from where? The Christian Science Monitor reported on May 7, 2003 that "the US has committed at least 12 of its 32 combat brigades to occupying Iraq". With one third of total American strength already in-theater (although the proportion has since fallen) and with commitments in the Balkans and Korea, the arithmetic of reinforcement becomes problematic. The deployment of units such as the 3rd ID had already been extended to keep up the tempo of attacks against terrorist elements in Iraq and could not be lengthened indefinitely. More force simply could not be provided unless the US Armed Forces redesigned itself. In particular, functions assigned to reserve units would have to be reintegrated into the active military, as Phil Carter pointed out.

Much of the press has naively suggested that an America in extremis is now seeking reinforcement from the United Nations. The more astute know that this is a practical impossibility. Any UN Blue Helmets would consist almost entirely of Third World troops who must be paid, trained and and even clothed at largely American expense anyway before they can be deployed. And on the basis of their past glacial deployments, it will take months before the vanguard of UN troops even set foot in Iraq. The probability is that any UN resolution will be aimed at diplomatically covering the coalition forces, such as the Poles, Italians, Dutch, Lithuanians, Czechs, Kiwis, Norwegians, Slovakians and Spaniards who are already there rather than in the expectation that Nigerian Blue Helmets will belatedly save the world.

The really interesting questions related to strength are the fundamental ones. The most basic is what is the task? Only when the goal is known can the adequacy of the means be judged. Surely the metric against which troop strength is measured must be in relation to its contribution to the War on Terror. The reconstruction of Iraq, important as that is, acquires value only insofar as it advances American war aims. Even if it were true that America lacked the men to reconstruct Iraq, what of it, unless the reconstruction itself were the strategic goal? And it might well be, since the War on Terror is a huge military and political struggle against the bankrupt Islamism of the Middle East. But Iraqi reconstruction is unlikely to be the sole road to victory. That would be too passive and condemn the Army to an indefinite period of watchfulness against waves of jihadis seeking to gratify their nihilistic urges. As a prescription for defeat, a strategy of passively defending Iraqi reconstruction could hardly be bettered.

The second basic question is what the relief anticipates in five or six months when CENTCOM will have transferred mundane security duties to the Iraqis and foreign contingents, an economy of force measure designed to free up combat forces. But for what? Here we meet a blank wall of intriguing featurelessness. After the September 11, the attack on Afghanistan was obvious, though its method was not. The toppling of Iraq was still more obvious, preceded by maneuvering in the Security Council, summits in the Azores and such. But here we come to the end of the plain road and it is easy to think that we are the end of ways. But the reconstitution of the US military; its ongoing transformation and the emphasis on replacing American troops with Iraqis and allies suggests that our journey has not yet ended. The troops are being freed up. But for what? A strategic hiatus to reassure the public until the Presidential elections are over? Or there is a deeper game?

O, that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.
-- Act 5. Scene I, Julius Caesar

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

After Judgment Day

The War on Terror is a peculiar in many ways. It lacks the linearity of past conflicts, with their clearly defined edges of battle and their secure rear areas. It is also one of the most limited yet all-encompassing wars the world has ever seen. Limited in that one side has purposely refrained from employing its full military potential. Encompassing in that the conflict involves a comprehensive clash of civilizations and belief systems. These contradictory characteristics suggest that at one level, everyone may be spared the ravages of war, yet another level it means that nothing will escape unscathed. One thing is certain, those who survive will not be what they were.

How this applies to news organizations is particularly interesting. Both Little Green Footballs and Biased BBC devote their efforts, for the Nth time, to denouncing the bias of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC's coverage, it may be recalled, was so offensive to the sailors of the HMS Ark Royal  that they decided to turn it off. Israel has limited the access of BBC correspondents and barred senior officials from talking to it. The BBC is also engaged in severe political conflict with sitting Labor government of the United Kingdom, each side accusing the other of -- propaganda. Given that accounts are typically settled at the end of a war, how will the BBC fare at the end of the War on Terror? That will depend on two things: who wins and how destructive the War is.

At the end of the World War 2, many enemy media stooges were either sentenced to prison terms like Ezra Pound, or hung like Lord Haw-haw. While the BBC has probably not crossed into enemy's camp yet, it is important at this early stage to establish where that boundary lies so that no one strays across the frontier accidentally. Some may question whether treason can be applied to journalism at all, however twisted, however false. But that is ridiculous. There always comes a point when journalistic acts have consequences that cannot be drawn back, as the David Kelly affair illustrates in a cautionary way. The problem is to identify that point before exceeding it.

The boundary will probably lie near liability. A news organization which tacitly cooperates with the mining of a civilian road in exchange for the opportunity to record the explosion or is treated to an opportunity to film an ambush may have crossed the line. A news organization which can be shown to have prior knowledge of a terrorist attack would be in a similar case. Simply mouthing enemy propaganda may not be cause for punishment under the current public mood. But that may change. An attack on a major city with nuclear or biological weapons, which is an eventuality the BBC risks, might alter the perception of treason. Mass grief creates its own political standards, its own political force. The BBC may believe that a high handed sneer can stop a demented crowd. They would be wrong. Yet barring a terrorist-inspired Armageddon, the chief risk to any would-be journalist, from a humble blogger to the mighty BBC, is who will be the victor.

Ironically, if America wins the War on Terror, the BBC can expect to escape unscathed. Unless the news organization engaged directly in acts of sabotage or active cooperation with the Islamist enemy, it is doubtful whether the American people would take the trouble to do anything other than go back to watching the Sunday gridiron football. But if the Islamists win, the knives will be out. It is manifestly clear that anti-Americanism is no defense against Islamic punishment. No organization was more viciously persecuted than the Marxist Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. No writer more mercilessly persecuted than the former leftist, Salman Rushdie. No pixie dust blocked the truck bomb headed for the UN Headquarters in Baghdad. No Algerian Communist Party card gave immunity to Islamic terrorists in Algeria. No chants of 'Death to America' kept the Shi'ites at Najaf safe. Not the most ardent cries of solidarity kept Robert Fisk from being beaten within an inch of his life by Taliban sympathizers. A world under Sharia law would be the worst possible for the BBC.

There is something disgustingly craven about an entity whose courage stems entirely from the conviction that those who it reviles will be too decent to strike back. Perhaps the most appropriate fate for the BBC is simply to remain what it is. Still, it is comforting to know that if civilization should perish under the heel of Islam the destruction would encompass those who jeered loudest as the valiant manned the walls.