20 Sep 2006

Warfare By Surrogates

Nathan Sharansky discusses the current covert form of warfare in the LA Times:

IN THE SUMMER of 2000, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin told me a story that I have been unable to get out of my mind. We were meeting in the Kremlin, and I raised the grave danger facing the world from the transfer of missile technology and nuclear material to the Iranians. In Putin’s view, however, the real danger came not from an Iranian nuclear-tipped missile or, for that matter, from the lethal arsenal of any nation-state.

“Imagine a sunny and beautiful day in a suburb of Manhattan,” he said. “An elderly man is tending to the roses in his small garden with his nephew visiting from Europe. Life seems perfectly normal. The following day, the nephew, carrying a suitcase, takes a train to Manhattan. Inside the suitcase is a nuclear bomb.”

The threat, Putin explained to me a year before 9/11, was not from this or that country but from their terrorist proxies — aided and supported quietly by a sovereign state that doesn’t want to get its hands dirty — who will perpetrate their attacks without a return address. This scenario became real when Al Qaeda plotted its 9/11 attacks from within Afghanistan and received support from the Taliban government. Then it happened again this summer, when Iran was allowed to wage a proxy war through Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. But this time, the international community’s weak response dealt the global war on terror a severe blow.

Five years ago, after 9/11, such a lack of culpability seemed inconceivable. That was when President Bush abandoned the conventional approach to fighting terror by vowing that the United States would henceforth make no distinction between terrorists and regimes that support them. You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.

The problem is that Bush has not fulfilled that promise.

In the case of Hezbollah, the Palestinians are surrogates for Iran, which is something of a surrogate for China. The US really does not want to confront on the basis of both military and economic consideration.

But, for whom is Al Qaeda a surrogate? It is just not possible for a band of guerillas to wage warfare, to recruit, train, transport, arm, and supply themselves. War is expensive. Al Qaeda’s operations, and the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, must be being funded by Islamic sources. It would economically disruptive to go after those sources, but there is no realistic other option. Until all the Near Eastern sources of funding are forced to stop waging proxy way, the war will continue.

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