True or False: We Are Losing The War Against Radical Islam
Topic: War on Terrorism
11:43 pm EDT, Jun 28, 2007
Amid the clamor, it is difficult to figure out what is actually going on.
Fareed Zakaria's weekly column.
People in the Muslim world travel to see the glitz in Dubai, not the madrassas in Tehran.
By and large, radical Islam is not winning the argument, which is why it is trying to win by force.
How to open up and modernize the Muslim world is a long, hard and complex challenge. But surely one key is to be seen by these societies and peoples as partners and friends, not as bullies and enemies. That is one battle we are not yet winning.
The Politics of the Man Behind '24' | The New Yorker
Topic: War on Terrorism
1:29 am EST, Feb 14, 2007
This article is more important than it sounds.
“24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors —— cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by “24,” which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ” He continued, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”
Gary Solis, a retired law professor who designed and taught the Law of War for Commanders curriculum at West Point, told me that he had similar arguments with his students. He said that, under both U.S. and international law, “Jack Bauer is a criminal. In real life, he would be prosecuted.” Yet the motto of many of his students was identical to Jack Bauer’s: “Whatever it takes.” His students were particularly impressed by a scene in which Bauer barges into a room where a stubborn suspect is being held, shoots him in one leg, and threatens to shoot the other if he doesn’t talk. In less than ten seconds, the suspect reveals that his associates plan to assassinate the Secretary of Defense. Solis told me, “I tried to impress on them that this technique would open the wrong doors, but it was like trying to stomp out an anthill.”
Put simply: Happy viewing. Although navigating the world of online war videos is at best a haphazard venture, there is enough material to provide as clear a view into the lives of combat, boredom and pointless amusement of the soldiers in Iraq as one will find anywhere.
On this particular video:
A characteristic and terrifying example of the invisible menace posed by insurgents is a YouTube video in which a camera lying on a barracks floor during an intense mortar attack captures troops praying and screaming as rounds land ever closer to their position.
As a defense against terrorism, militarizing the Great Lakes is a symbolic defeat. And it is another in a series of incremental changes that threaten to change everything that we take for granted about our country.
The war I knew was infinitely more complex, contradictory and elusive than the one described in the network news broadcasts or envisioned in the new field manual. When I finally left Baquba, the violent capital of Iraq’s Diyala Province, I found myself questioning many aspects of our mission and our accomplishments, both in a personal search for meaning and a quest to gather lessons that might help those soldiers who will follow me.
We learned that counterinsurgency cannot be conducted from afar.
But did we make a difference?
In theory, security should have improved with the development of capable Iraqi Army and police units. That did not happen. This is the central paradox of the Iraq war in fall 2006.
This paradox raises fundamental questions about the wisdom and efficacy of our strategy, which is to “stand up” Iraqi security forces so we can “stand down” American forces. Put simply, this plan is a blueprint for withdrawal, not for victory. Improving the Iraqi Army and police is necessary to prevail in Iraq; it is not sufficient.
Counterinsurgency is more like an election than a military operation.
In the last three months, following a request from President Bush to "flood the zone," the CIA has sharply increased the number of intelligence officers and assets devoted to the pursuit of bin Laden.
The problem, former and current counterterrorism officials say, is that no one is certain where the "zone" is.
The Afghan-Pakistan border is about 1,500 miles.
At least 23 senior anti-Taliban tribesmen have been assassinated in South and North Waziristan since May 2005.
Pakistan has now all but stopped looking for bin Laden.
"Once again, we have lost track of Ayman al-Zawahiri," the Pakistani intelligence official said in a recent interview. "He keeps popping on television screens. It's miserable, but we don't know where he or his boss are hiding."
"There's nobody in the United States government whose job it is to find Osama bin Laden!" one frustrated counterterrorism official shouted. "Nobody!"
"We work by consensus," explained Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. "It's not that effective, or we'd find the guy."
This is an interesting vignette:
In early November 2002, a CIA drone armed with a Hellfire missile killed a top al-Qaeda leader traveling through the Yemeni desert. About a week later, Rumsfeld expressed anger that it was the CIA, not the Defense Department, that had carried out the successful strike.
"How did they get the intel?" he demanded.
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then director of the National Security Agency and technically part of the Defense Department, said he had given it to them.
"Why aren't you giving it to us?" Rumsfeld wanted to know.
Hayden, according to this source, told Rumsfeld that the information-sharing mechanism with the CIA was working well. Rumsfeld said it would have to stop.
Over the last year, as Iran, Iraq and Lebanon have dominated headlines, hopes of gaining firmer control of a largely forgotten corner of the war on terrorism — the lawless Pakistan-Afghanistan border region — have quietly evaporated.
On Tuesday, the Pakistani government signed a "truce" with militants which lets militants remain in the area as long as they promised to halt attacks.
Is this the "separate peace" that Rumsfeld was talking about? He must be furious about this, right?
The Taliban leadership is believed to have established a base of operations in and around the Pakistani city of Quetta. The Pakistani government sees the group as a tool to counter growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, roadside bomb attacks have doubled this year, and suicide bombings have tripled.
This year, the United States cut its aid to Afghanistan by 30 percent.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban are no doubt betting that time is on their side.
As late as June of this year, Mark Mershon of the FBI testified that the bureau will not monitor or surveil any Islamist unless there is a "criminal predicate." Thus the large Islamist support infrastructure that the commission identified here in the United States is free to operate until its members actually commit a crime.
Spun another way, the FBI is sick of tailing pizza delivery boys. Is there really an Al'Queda domestic support infrastructure that we are aware of and aren't paying attention to or is this guy merely suggesting that every arab is a suspect?
Even in the United States, some 80 percent of Islamic mosques and schools are closely aligned with the Wahhabist sect and heavily dependent on Saudi funding.
I would be seriously suprised to hear that American Islamic mosques are producing violent radicals. If this is the case, the response ought to come in the form of dialog. The suggestion that we should target and eliminate funding for a sect of domestic religious schools that are, AFAIK, not producing violent people, simply because they are muslim is, frankly, unconstitutional for a good reason. I don't think the sort of radical churches that exist in England would be tollerated here.
Is There Still a Terrorist Threat? | Foreign Affairs
Topic: War on Terrorism
3:17 am EDT, Sep 5, 2006
Despite all the ominous warnings of wily terrorists and imminent attacks, there has been neither a successful strike nor a close call in the United States since 9/11. The reasonable -- but rarely heard -- explanation is that there are no terrorists within the United States, and few have the means or the inclination to strike from abroad.
It is worth remembering that the total number of people killed since 9/11 by al Qaeda or al Qaedalike operatives outside of Afghanistan and Iraq is not much higher than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States in a single year.
Although it remains heretical to say so, the evidence so far suggests that fears of the omnipotent terrorist may have been overblown, the threat presented within the United States by al Qaeda greatly exaggerated. The massive and expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists.
I think this article is too quick to dismiss in the impact that the invasion of Afghanistan had on Al'Queda, but the general thrust doesn't require this observation to be acceptable.