Francis Pike, in the Spectator, warns that China is well on the way to adding strategic domination of the Bay of Bengal and the sea lanes to the Middle East to its ruthless appropriation of the South China Sea. Only the superior power of the US Navy stands in China’s way, but China is planning a massive naval expansion, and the US is not.
The forthcoming geopolitical struggle for supremacy between China and India will not be on land. It will be on water and a much larger body of water than Pangong Lake. The Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea will become the defining-battleground.
Xi Jinpingâ€™s â€˜Maritime Silk Roadâ€™ policy is less talked about in the western press than â€˜One Belt One Roadâ€™. The economic and military strategy is to dominate the sea lanes between China and the Middle East. As in the ancient Chinese board game of territorial control, Go, which inspired the great military theorist, Sun Tzu, Xiâ€™s China is in the process of placing â€˜stonesâ€™ (Goâ€™s playing pieces) on Asiaâ€™s maritime seaboard that will enable it to achieve this dominance.
Chinaâ€™s first offshore naval port in Djibouti, adjacent to the Suez Canal, is already built. Pakistanâ€™s Chinese-financed port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, guarding the approaches to the Strait of Hormuz, is another one of the stones. Closer to home, China, by its placement of airfields and naval facilities on reclaimed reefs in the Spratly Islands, has now gained probably irreversible control of the South China Sea.
From Chinaâ€™s viewpoint this is not enough. A third of global shipping and most of Chinaâ€™s oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca between Singapore and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. As a Portuguese envoy noted in the 16th century, â€˜whoever is lord of Malacca has his hands on the throatâ€™. With the US navy embedded in Singaporeâ€™s Changi naval base, China sees the Malacca Strait as the weakest link in its maritime strategy. Thus, the digging of a $30 billion, 80-mile canal across the Kra Isthmus in southern Thailand is being mooted. The canal would bypass the US-controlled Malacca Strait and give China unimpeded access to the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Reputedly, Chinese companies are already buying up land around the projected route of the canal. Importantly, over the past 20 years, Thailand, once a staunch US ally, has become a quasi-satellite of China.
Further inroads into the Bay of Bengal are being established by Chinese financing of the new port at Chittagong in Bangladesh, a country whose relationship to India, if not hostile, is nevertheless equivocal. It is somewhat overlooked that Bangladesh, a country of 165 million people, is now one of Asiaâ€™s fastest-growing economies.
Myanmar is even more in thrall to China. As the old Burmese saying goes: â€˜When China spits, Burma swims.â€™ Here too China is financing a major port development on the coast of Rakhine state, home of the Rohingyas. In January, during Xiâ€™s state visit to Myanmar, there was a joint announcement that they would push ahead with the construction of a new port in the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone. It is planned to link both this and the port in Chittagong by rail and road to Kunming, the capital of western Chinaâ€™s Yunnan Province. An oil pipeline is also planned. Meanwhile in the southern reaches of the Bay of Bengal, the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka have been close allies since the 1950s.
Although India is fully alive to Chinaâ€™s â€˜string of pearlsâ€™ strategy, the West appears to be asleep. …
With 11 aircraft carriers to Chinaâ€™s two, America still commands maritime Asia. However, the balance is changing rapidly. As the US congressional report on Chinese naval modernisation concluded in May, by year end the US will have 297 naval vessels, the same number as 15 years ago; China will have 360, up more than 50 per cent over the same period. A third Chinese aircraft carrier is under construction and the hull of a fourth is expected to be laid down next year.
The direction of travel is clear. The US navy could find itself in Chinaâ€™s wake if current trends continue. â€˜There is no doubt that theyâ€™ve been investing hugely in this,â€™ says Nick Childs of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. â€˜Theyâ€™ve been outbuilding everybody.â€™ Unless the West wakes up to the challenge, it is likely to be outgunned within 15 to 20 years by the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army navy. The European Union, of course, unwilling even to pay for its own strategic defence, is an embarrassing irrelevance. The risk for India and the West is not armed conflict with China. It is that the struggle for supremacy in Asia will be lost with hardly a shot being fired. Sun Tzu would be proud.
Larry Kummer, at Fabius Maximus, identifies the lessons the leadership of both sides learned from the early Vietnam War Battle of Ia Drang (famously depicted in the Mel Gibson movie “We Were Soldiers” ). Only one side’s leadership got the lesson right.
On 14 November 1965 the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) flew to the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, initiating the first major battle between the North Vietnamese and American armies. This marked our transition from advisers to direct combatants. There were two battles. One at Landing Zone X-Ray, where Americans under the command of Lt. Colonel Harold G. Moore (Lt. General, US Army, deceased) withstood fantastic odds â€“ inflicted absurdly disproportionate casualties (with the aid of airpower and artillery), and withdrew. One at Landing Zone Albany, where Lt. Colonel Robert McDade made a series of basic mistakes that led to his unit being mauled. …
Ia Drang tested the new concept of air assault, in which helicopters inserted troops to a distant battlefield, then supplied and extracted them. During that four day â€œtestâ€ 234 American men died, â€œmore Americans than were killed in any regiment, North or South, at the Battle of Gettysburg, and far more than were killed in combat in the entire Persian Gulf War.â€ Both sides drew optimistic conclusions from the result.
We believed that our combination of innovative technology and tactics could achieve the victory that eluded France. We saw Ia Drang as a tactical success that validated our new methods, and so we expanded the war. We absurdly believed the victory resulted from our technology, not the valor and skill of our troops.
â€œIn Saigon, the American commander in Vietnam, Gen William C. Westmoreland, and his principal deputy, Gen William DePuy, looked at the statistics of the 34-day Ia Drang campaign â€¦ and saw a kill ratio of 12 North Vietnamese to one American. What that said â€¦was that they could bleed the enemy to death over the long haul, with a strategy of attrition.â€
North Vietnamâ€™s leaders drew the opposite conclusions.
â€œIn Hanoi, President Ho Chi Ming and his lieutenants considered the outcome in the Ia Drang and were serenely confident. Their peasant soldiers had withstood the terrible high-tech firestorm delivered against them by a superpower and had at least fought the Americas to a draw. By their yardstick, a draw against such a powerful opponent was the equivalent of a victory. In time, they were certain, the patience and perseverance that had worn down the French colonialists would also wear down the Americans.â€
Also, North Vietnamâ€™s leaders believed that US commanders would more often be like McDade than Moore. The next decade proved that they were correct. General VÃµ NguyÃªn GiÃ¡p understand the significance of this battle, and that the war would evolved as he had explained in 1950 to the political commissars of the 316th Division (then discussing France, but eventually true of America as well â€” in Vietnam as well as our post-9/11 wars)â€¦
â€œThe enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration. Thus, the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: he has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long drawn-out war.â€
â€” From Bernard Fallâ€™s Street without joy: Indochina at war, 1946-54 (1961).
Lorenzo Barteloni, statue of NiccolÃ² Macchiavelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
What a shame it is that US presidents from George W. Bush on did not read, and deal with Islamic terrorism on the basis of the wisdom contained in, Angelo M. Codevilla’s 2001 essay.
Common sense does not mistake the difference between victory and defeat: the losers weep and cower, while the winners strut and rejoice. The losers have to change their ways, the winners feel more secure than ever in theirs. On September 12, retiring Texas Senator Phil Gramm encapsulated this common sense: “I don’t want to change the way I live. I want to change the way they live.” Common sense says that victory means living without worry that some foreigners might kill us on behalf of their causes, but also without having to bow to domestic bureaucrats and cops, especially useless ones. It means not changing the tradition by which the government of the United States treats citizens as its masters rather than as potential enemies. Victory requires killing our enemies, or making them live in debilitating fear.
The terrorists and terrorist nations such as Saudi Arabia only fear one thing: the destruction of the religion of Islam. There is nothing in this life that has greater value to them than Islam. They are willing to sacrifice and even die to promote Islam. This religious motivation is the engine that drives the Jihad against us.
The path to Paradise, according to the Five Pillars of Islam, involves the city of Mecca and its stone temple called the Kabah. Muslims pray toward Mecca five times a day. What if Mecca didnâ€™t exist anymore?
They must make a pilgrimage to Mecca and engage in an elaborate set of rituals centered around the Kabah once they arrive. What if Mecca and the Kabah were only blackened holes in the ground?
What if Medina, the burial place of Muhammad was wiped off the face of the planet?
What if the Dome Mosque on the Temple site in Jerusalem was blown up?
The greatest weakness of Islam is that it is hopelessly tied to sacred cities and buildings. If these cities and buildings were destroyed, Islam would die within a generation as it would be apparent to all that its god could not protect the three holiest sites in Islam. …
The US government and its allies must agree that this is the final solution to the Muslim problem. We must tell all terrorist groups that the next time they destroy the lives and properties of Americans at home or abroad, we will destroy Mecca, Medina and Dome Mosque. They will be responsible for destroying the three most holy sites in Islam and bringing the religion to its knees.
We must tell all the Muslim countries that are presently supporting and harboring terrorists that if they do not cease and desist at once, we will destroy the heart of their religion.
Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Islamic world would, for the first time in their bloody history of oppression and tyranny, have to give civil rights and human rights to women and non-Islamic religions. They would have to allow their people to decide for themselves what religion, if any, they want in their lives. The â€œreligious policeâ€ would be disbanded.
All Islamic laws would have to give way to the UN declaration on human rights, civil rights, womenâ€™s rights and freedom of religion. Once Muslim governments took their foot off the neck of their people, millions of Muslims would convert to Christianity as they have had enough of oppression and violence from their Imams and Mullahs.â€
Last Saturday, the left-wing British Guardian launched a full-scale marginalizing and discrediting attack on William C. Bradford, an assistant law professor teaching at the US Military Academy at West Point.
The attack on Bradford was occasioned by his publication of an academic paper last April which made a couple of colorful and controversial proposals.
An assistant professor in the law department of the US military academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a â€œtreasonousâ€ fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.
In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten â€œIslamic holy sitesâ€ as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, â€œeven if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damageâ€.
Other â€œlawful targetsâ€ for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include â€œlaw school facilities, scholarsâ€™ home offices and media outlets where they give interviewsâ€ â€“ all civilian areas, but places where a â€œcausal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incitedâ€ exist.
â€œShocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are â€“ at least in theory â€“ targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,â€ Bradford wrote. …
[A] clique of about fortyâ€ scholars, Bradford writes, have â€œconverted the US legal academy into a cohort whose vituperative pronouncements on the illegality of the US resort to force and subsequent conduct in the war against Islamismâ€ represent a â€œsuper-weapon that supports Islamist military operationsâ€ aimed at â€œAmerican political willâ€ to fight. They are supported by â€œcompliant journalistsâ€ marked by â€œdefeatism, instinctive antipathy to war, and empathy for American adversariesâ€, but Bradford considers the lawyers a greater threat.
The offending legal scholars â€œeffectively tilt the battlefield against US forces [and] contribute to timorousness and lethargy in US military commandersâ€, he writes. They are among several â€œuseful idiotsâ€ who â€œseparate Islam from Islamists by attributing to the former principles in common with the West, including â€˜justice and progressâ€™ and â€˜the dignity of all human beingsâ€™â€. …
The West Point faculty member urges the US to wage â€œtotal warâ€ on â€œIslamismâ€, using â€œconventional and nuclear force and [psychological operations]â€, in order to â€œleave them prepared to coexist with the West or be utterly eradicatedâ€. He suggests in a footnote that â€œthreatening Islamic holy sites might create deterrence, discredit Islamism, and falsify the assumption that decadence renders Western restraint inevitableâ€.
The Guardian’s hatchet job appeared on Saturday, and the next day Bradford was being bundled out the door of West Point, whose representatives were busily disavowing ever having known him.
Yesterday, the Guardian was gloating and finishing up a thorough job of carpet-bombing the heretic’s reputation.
‘Dr William Bradford resigned on Sunday,’ army lieutenant colonel Christopher Kasker, a West Point spokesman, told the Guardian on Monday. Bradford had taught five lessons for cadets in a common-core law course, from 17 to 27 August.
We are given to understand that Bradford is, naturally, some kind of complete crackpot and congenital liar. Bradford, you see, is alleged to have exaggerated his academical positions (never a problem in the case of University of Chicago Law Professor Barack Obama) and –with no actual proof– his military service.
David Samuels, in an important essay, argues that Osama bin Laden out-strategized a series of dimbulb American administrations, astutely predicting precisely how they would respond.
judging from his last known private letter, dated April 25, 2011, Bin Laden died a happy man. â€œWhat we are witnessing these days of consecutive revolutions is a great and glorious event,â€ he mused, after watching the fall of the secular, Western-backed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, which he watched on CNN, before the daring Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. â€œ[T]hanks to Allah things are strongly heading toward the exit of Muslims from being under the control of America.â€
Even at this late date, it seems difficult for American policymakers to grasp exactly how Bin Ladenâ€™s mastery of the inherently paradoxical logic of warfareâ€”a logic very different than the linear cause-and-effect style of reasoning that governs normal life and electoral politics alikeâ€”allowed a man without a country, heavy weapons, or even broadband Internet access to reshape the world to his advantage. The clarity of Bin Ladenâ€™s strategic insight, which now seems obvious, also suggests that the dynamic that he deliberately set in motion is still unfolding, in ways that he foresaw before his deathâ€”ways that continue to roil the Middle East and will continue to pose a threat to the safety of Americans at home. …
Bin Laden was never shy about explaining what he was doing and why. His public statements about his strategic logic and goals in targeting â€œthe far enemyâ€ remained remarkably consistent, from his first fatwa against America until the last letter he wrote before his death. In his 1996 â€œDeclaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,â€ published soon after the Khobar Towers bombings in Saudi Arabia, he explained that â€œit is essential to hit the main enemy who divided the Ummahâ€â€”the Muslim worldâ€”â€œinto small and little countries and pushed it, for the last few decades, into a state of confusion.â€
Americaâ€™s response to an attack would be to get sucked into a war, he predictedâ€”and when the going got tough, the United States would cut and run. Responding to then-U.S. Defense Sec. William Perry, who had called the Khobar bombers cowards and had sworn not to give in, Bin Laden asked, â€œWhere was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 Marine soldiers were killed.â€ …
In public and private following the Sept. 11 attacks, he returned to the same themes, over and over again, in at least three-quarters of his public statements and in private letters to other jihadists that were seized from his compound in Abbotabad and later made public. â€œThe goal is to weaken America until it can no longer interfere in Muslims affairs,â€ he explained, in a letter whose contents were entirely typical of his communications. â€œOnce the American enemy has been defeated, our next step would be targeting the regionâ€™s leaders who had been the pillars of support for that American hegemony.â€
It is proof of Bin Ladenâ€™s mastery of the unexpected logic that animates strategic thought, and of the glaring inability of Americaâ€™s political leaders to think strategically, that not one but two American presidents have faithfully acted their roles in his geo-political script: George W. Bush, the hawk, with his open-ended and heavy-handed occupation of Iraq; and Barack Obama, the dove, with his precipitous and wholesale withdrawal of American military forces and influence from the Middle East. Both menâ€”and their many advisersâ€”should have known better.
Read the whole thing. It’s depressing reading and hard to argue with.
The innermost circle of the Tianxia is formed by the rest of the Politburo and top Beijing officialdom, while its outermost circle comprises the Solomon Islands along with the twenty or so other utterly benighted â€œouter barbarianâ€ countries that still do not recognize Beijing, preferring Taipei. In between, all other Chinese from officials and tycoons to ordinary subjects and overseas Chinese fit in their own circles, further and further from the imperial coreas do foreign states both large and small, both near and far, both already respectful (too few) and those still arrogantly vainglorious. It is the long-range task of Chinaâ€™s external policy to bring each and every state into a proper relationship with the emperorâ€”that is, a tributary relationship, in which they deliver goods and services if only as tokens of fealty, in exchange for security and prosperity, but even more for the privilege of proximity to the globally benevolent emperor1. All this is of course nothing more than an exceptionally elaborate rendition of universal ambitions that are merely grander for the greaterâ€”the Byzantine ranking of foreign potentates by their proximity to the emperor was only slightly less elaborate.
Nor is there anything peculiarly Chinese about the desire to bring other states into a tributary relationshipâ€”often better than a full incorporation, which may be unwanted for any number of reasons, and obviously superior to an alliance however close and secure but between equals, whereby there must be reciprocity, a quid for every quo, usually costly or irksome in some way. Hence from time immemorial, stronger clans, tribes, potentates, and entire nations have done their best to impose tributary relations on weaker clans, tribes, potentates and nations, obtaining goods and services for their forbearance and perhaps protection, or at least tokens of respectful subordination. Chinese emperors wanted no more than that, and unlike most recipients, not infrequently gave gifts more valuable than the tribute they received (as did many Byzantine emperors, by the way).
What is peculiar to Chinaâ€™s political culture, and of very great contemporary relevance is the centrality within it of a very specific doctrine on how to bring powerful foreignersâ€”indeed foreigners initially more powerful than the empireâ€”into a tributary relationship.
Be sure to read on in order to find out how it would be applied to us.
Ukraine lacks a modern mechanized and air-supported military capable of taking on Russia but, as Dr. Waller notes, Ukraine does not necessarily have to do that. Russia’s economy and influence over Europe depends on energy sales to European countries. That energy is delivered by Russian pipelines crossing Ukraine.
Hereâ€™s what Ukraine should do:
1. Send loyalist forces and pipeline engineers to occupy all Gazprom pipeline compressor stations, valve stations, and regulator stations.
2. Close the valves of one or more major pipelines, to demonstrate capability.
3. Issue orders to shut down entire pipelines by closing the valves and disabling them if necessary.
4. Plant demolition charges along the pipelines in remote areas, to detonate in the event it is necessary to destroy them.
The results will be catastrophic for both Europe and Russia.
For Russia, it would show that Ukraine effectively controls the single largest source of Russiaâ€™s hard currency inflows.
When Putin sent forces into Ukraine, he caused Gazpromâ€™s market value to tank $15 billion in just one day.
Think, then, of how powerful the mere suggestion of a Ukrainian cutoff of gas would be on Gazprom, the Russian state, and the oligarchs who own the most shares of the company.
The results would also cause Europe to pay Ukraine some of the respect that was lost when Kyiv surrendered its nuclear weapons back to Moscow more than two decades ago. Ukraine could finally show that it isnâ€™t just Moscow that controls Europeâ€™s natural gas supply.
Ukraine can safeguard whatâ€™s left of its natural integrity â€“ and even force Putin to remove Russian forces from the country completely â€“ by building the easy capability to destroy the pipelines completely, should Putin remain the aggressor. Meanwhile, Ukraine can show its restraint as a responsible actor in the midst of a severe national crisis, earning more serious attention to the increasingly finlandized Europe. (Keep in mind that senior political figures, such as former German socialist chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der, is on the Gazprom payroll.)
By showing that it can â€“ and will â€“ shut down or wreck Gazpromâ€™s gas lines crisscrossing its territory, Ukraine will be defeating the enemy without fighting him at all.
Paul Rahe makes a very interesting argument that John Roberts only appeared to cave. That, in reality, the Chief Justice was playing a diabolically clever long game strategy which involved permanently gutting Congressional illegitimate exploitation of the Commerce Clause while only apparently surrendering on Obamacare. Roberts, he contends, vastly enhanced the authority and immunity to liberal attacks of the Court, while dealing a deadly blow to the regulatory administrative state, and yet, hidden in the Tax Powers interpretation, astute commentators are able to identify aspects of the opinion boding very, very ill for Obamacare.
Most conservatives … suspect that John Roberts did not have the stomach to confront the President and his party. See, for example, Joel Pollakâ€™s post Did Roberts Give in to Obamaâ€™s Bullying? Moreover, there is evidence that the opinion authored by Justice Scalia was originally a majority opinion. Roberts was forced to back off. His was an act of judicial cowardice. …
Or was it merely a recognition of the weakness of the judicial branch? … Roberts is very much concerned with sustaining the legitimacy and influence of the Court, and Obama and the Democrats have made it clear that they would regard a decision overturning Obamacare as a declaration of war.
There is, I am confident, more to it than this. In his opinion, the Chief Justice affirmed the principle asserted by Justices Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. He made it clear that the commerce clause does not give Congress authority over economic activity that we do not engage in. He also made it clear that the necessary and proper clause cannot be applied to achieve this end. In short, he joined these four Justices in setting a clear limit to the commerce clause, and he paved the way for future challenges to extensions of the regulatory state.
At the same time, he dodged the political firestorm, and nearly all of the liberals who have commented on the matter â€“ a slow-thinking lot, in my opinion â€“ have applauded what they take to be cowardice on his part as â€œjudiciousness.â€ Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit was among the first to recognize that Roberts might be playing an elaborate game. … Reynolds pointed to one crucial fact: [Emphasis added] Senate rules do not allow a filibuster when the bill under consideration has to do with imposing or repealing a tax. If the Republicans take the Senate and the Presidency, they can now repeal the individual mandate. They will not need sixty votes. …
[Another crucial detail] The version of Obamacare that became law originated in the Senate. The Constitution stipulates that all tax bills must originate in the House. [It is possible to] file another suit arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional because the Senate cannot originate tax bills.
Stratfor’s George Friedman discusses the purpose and significance of the October 3rd alert warning of possible terrorist attacks in Europe and contemplates the broader problem.
The world is awash in intelligence about terrorism. Most of it is meaningless speculation, a conversation intercepted between two Arabs about how they’d love to blow up London Bridge. The problem, of course, is how to distinguish between idle chatter and actual attack planning. There is no science involved in this, but there are obvious guidelines. Are the people known to be associated with radical Islamists? Do they have the intent and capability to conduct such an attack? Were any specific details mentioned in the conversation that can be vetted? Is there other intelligence to support the plot discussed in the conversation?
The problem is that what appears quite obvious in the telling is much more ambiguous in reality. At any given point, the government could reasonably raise the alert level if it wished. That it doesn’t raise it more frequently is tied to three things. First, the intelligence is frequently too ambiguous to act on. Second, raising the alert level warns people without really giving them any sense of what to do about it. Third, it can compromise the sources of its intelligence.
The current warning is a perfect example of the problem. We do not know what intelligence the U.S. government received that prompted the warning, and I suspect that the public descriptions of the intelligence do not reveal everything that the government knows. We do know that a German citizen was arrested in Afghanistan in July and has allegedly provided information regarding this threat, but there are likely other sources contributing to the warning, since the U.S. government considered the intelligence sufficient to cause concern. The Obama administration leaked on Saturday that it might issue the warning, and indeed it did.
The government did not recommend that Americans not travel to Europe. That would have affected the economy and infuriated Europeans. Leaving tourism aside, since tourism season is largely over, a lot of business is transacted by Americans in Europe. The government simply suggested vigilance. Short of barring travel, there was nothing effective the government could do. So it shifted the burden to travelers. If no attack occurs, nothing is lost. If an attack occurs, the government can point to the warning and the advice. Those hurt or killed would not have been vigilant.
I do not mean to belittle the U.S. government on this. Having picked up the intelligence it can warn the public or not. The public has a right to know, and the government is bound by law and executive order to provide threat information. But the reason that its advice is so vague is that there is no better advice to give. The government is not so much washing its hands of the situation as acknowledging that there is not much that anyone can do aside from the security measures travelers should already be practicing.
The alert serves another purpose beyond alerting the public. It communicates to the attackers that their attack has been detected if not penetrated, and that the risks of the attack have pyramided. Since these are most likely suicide attackers not expecting to live through the attack, the danger is not in death. It is that the Americans or the Europeans might have sufficient intelligence available to thwart the attack. From the terrorist point of view, losing attackers to death or capture while failing to inflict damage is the worst of all possible scenarios. Trained operatives are scarce, and like any strategic weapon they must be husbanded and, when used, cause maximum damage. When the attackers do not know what Western intelligence knows, their risk of failure is increased along with the incentive to cancel the attack. A government warning, therefore, can prevent an attack. …
the warning might well have served a purpose, but the purpose was not necessarily to empower citizens to protect themselves from terrorists. Indeed, there might have been two purposes. One might have been to disrupt the attack and the attackers. The other might have been to cover the government if an attack came.
In either case, it has to be recognized that this sort of warning breeds cynicism among the public. If the warning is intended to empower citizens, it engenders a sense of helplessness, and if no attack occurs, it can also lead to alert fatigue. What the government is saying to its citizenry is that, in the end, it cannot guarantee that there won’t be an attack and therefore its citizens are on their own. The problem with that statement is not that the government isn’t doing its job but that the job cannot be done. The government can reduce the threat of terrorism. It cannot eliminate it.
This brings us to the strategic point. The defeat of jihadist terror cells cannot be accomplished defensively. Homeland security can mitigate the threat, but it can never eliminate it. The only way to eliminate it is to destroy all jihadist cells and prevent the formation of new cells by other movements or by individuals forming new movements, and this requires not just destroying existing organizations but also the radical ideology that underlies them. To achieve this, the United States and its allies would have to completely penetrate a population of about 1.3 billion people and detect every meeting of four or five people planning to create a terrorist cell. And this impossible task would not even address the problem of lone-wolf terrorists. It is simply impossible to completely dominate and police the entire world, and any effort to do so would undoubtedly induce even more people to turn to terrorism in opposition to the global police state.
Will Rogers was asked what he might do to deal with the German U-boat threat in World War I. He said he would boil away the Atlantic, revealing the location of the U-boats that could then be destroyed. Asked how he would do this, he answered that that was a technical question and he was a policymaker.
George Friedman is clever and cynical as always, but I think he’s wrong about the United States and her Western allies being unable to boil the Islamic sea.
Terrorism is really war by another name, and war is labor intensive and consequently costly. Terrorism exists because funding, weapons, material support, and ultimately safe havens are made available by the only entities capable of providing the necessary scale of support: governments.
We are in denial about the collusion of hostile states like Iran and supposedly friendly states. A major debate occurred some years ago in foreign policy and intelligence circles on the possibility of the existence of non-state actors operating in complete isolation from any state or government. The liberal side of the debate was articulated most prominently by Paul Pilar, chief of analysis at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and expressed most completely in his book Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Pilar’s position, that unicorns exist and spontaneously generate, has become the Intelligence Community’s orthodoxy and it is nonsense. The Taliban have been able to pay their fighters more than than the Afghan government pays members of its security forces. The Taliban have an estimated 20,000-30,000 fighters. $300 a month times 20,000-30,000 men is $6,000,000-$9,000,000 or $72,000,000-$108,000,000 in minimum base salaries alone per annum before adding in higher compensation for officers and ncos, arms and ammunition, clothing, rations, and medical supplies.
We have a multi-hundred million dollar per year enterprise underway in the Afghan mountains and other insurgencies operating in Iraq, in the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa, and to some extent in Europe and the United States. A certain amount of all this activity is self-funded by kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but it must be obvious that enormous amounts of monetary and material support are coming from somewhere.
It is also obvious that what makes the expenditure on NGO terrorism possible for governments, groups, and wealthy citizens of the Islamic world is the vast transfer of wealth from the civilized and developed world exchanged for oil at artificially high prices created by the manipulation of prices and supplies by the OPEC oil cartel.
To boil the sea that terrorism swims in, the US government merely needs to destroy OPEC, return petroleum to prices to the mercies of the real world market, and thereby reduce the economic surplus that flatters Islamic egos and enables Islamic extravagances.
The first step, of course, would be to defeat the liberal security orthodoxy that protects state supporters of terrorist surrogates and immunizes them by enabling deniability.
The Washington Independent admiringly quotes a good line from Harvard’s Rory Stewart aptly summing up the approach of both the current and previous adminstrations on Afghanistan.
Rory Stewart, the Afghanistan-war skeptic who heads the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, has one advantage over his fellow witnesses at this Senate panel: heâ€™s better with quips. Stewart compares the Obama administrationâ€™s twinning of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy to a policy of dealing with â€œan angry cat and a tiger,â€ after Brookingsâ€™ Steve Biddle reiterated his argument that the U.S.â€™s interests in Afghanistan are primarily about Pakistan.
â€œWeâ€™re beating the cat,â€ Stewart said, â€œand when you say, â€˜Why are you beating the cat?â€™ you say, â€˜Itâ€™s a cat-tiger strategy.â€™ But youâ€™re beating the cat because you donâ€™t know what to do about the tiger.â€