Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Here is an excellent analysis of the framework and mmajor componenets of the 'War on Terror'. I dont agree with all of the assertions or conclusions but on the whole I think it is a good start on what path needs to be taken.

Suggestions for what the campaign must target in order to be successful:

The foundation of a systematic campaign against al-Qaeda would be activities that (i) squeeze the blood flow of the organization -- its financial support system; (ii) throw more light on the organization's members and components through intelligence gathering activities; (iii) impede the movement of the organization by increasing the sensitivity of screening procedures at critical gateways -- borders, financial exchanges, arms markets, and transportation portals; and (iv) improve the protection of high-value targets. These measures would serve to diminish the organization's stealth, flexibility, and resourcefulness while also decreasing the vulnerability of its preferred targets.

Several of these proposed steps would make the routine activities of al-Qaeda more risky for its members. Recruiting, traveling, changing residences, collecting resources, training, reconnoitering targets -- all would carry a higher risk of detection and apprehension. At the same time, better protection of preferred targets will force the organization into more demanding and risky maneuvers, imposing a higher cost for success. Not only would this approach increase the likelihood of detection and apprehension or interdiction, it would also leave the organization less able to recover from strikes by military or law enforcement agencies. The organization might choose or be coerced into accepting a lower level of activity -- fewer attacks on a smaller scale against less salient targets -- but this is not an acceptable alternative for an organization like al-Qaeda. As discussed in the next section, it lives and grows only by means of executing frequent high-profile attacks.

On al-Qaeda's aims and methods:

Instrumental terrorism often tailors violence to communicate a degree of restraint or proportionality. Implicit in this is the threat of "more to come" if the terrorists' demands are not met. However, instrumental terrorist acts also aim to communicate that negotiation or de- escalation is possible. By comparison, when a terrorist organization sees violence primarily as a catalysis of broader conflict, it will seek to cause as much damage as its capabilities allow. It does not fear polarization, but instead seeks it.

Al Qaeda attempts to use terror both instrumentally -- as in its assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud -- and as catalyst. Its global acts emphasize catalytic ends. The catalytic employment of terror is of greatest concern both because it tends toward large-scale destruction far removed from any specific battlefield and because al-Qaeda happens to have an attentive, responsive audience. Its hope of inciting a broader Islamic extremism is not delusional. This is not to say that al-Qaeda "represents" a constituency. It does not. But it does speak in a popular idiom, echoing popular concerns in the Muslim world.

< email | 7/03/2002 11:43:00 AM | link

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