Monday, April 17, 2006

Asymmetry

We often hear the war against the Enemy described as asymmetrical warfare. By this we usually mean that jihadists do not have the capability to fight what we consider a conventional battle. But there is another way of looking at symmetry. The jihadists fight us on several fronts:

State-to-State: Iran is the chief example of a state enemy. There are others. Still more are potential Enemy states. Many are only a coup or an assassination away from falling into the Enemy.

Non-state actors: Al-Qaeda is the most famous but there are many others all around the globe. You know who they are, from the Philippines to London, from Sweden to South Africa. Some like Hamas are in the process of taking over something that is Not-Quite-a-State. Thus one Enemy front becomes another.

Leaderless Cells / Lone Wolves: From the London bombers to the guy who shot the El Al counter at LAX to that student in North Carolina. They're always described by neighbors after the attack as "nice chaps" and "quiet boys" who were normal, liked football, studied hard. The Enemy is among us, waiting.

Demography: the Enemy grows. In the West and in other "infidel" lands and in its homelands, the Enemy fight with her womb. Each generation more than the one before. The Enemy threatens us with its numbers.

Each of these fronts feeds into another. The Enemy States fund and supply the Non-State Actors who generate the methods and ideology for the Leaderless Cells which get their manpower from the growing Enemy demographics. The Enemy fights us with at least four interlocking, self-reinforcing fronts.

Ask yourself how we fight against all this and you will probably come up with only one answer: the State. The West uses only State-based resources to combat the Enemy, from the military and security services to financial embargoes and diplomatic "pressure". The West does not threaten Islam with its high birth rate. The West doesn't unleash waves of terrorists or fund underground militant groups.

All we have is the State. We treat the Enemy as a military force to be defeated, as an underground terror group to be hunted down, as leaderless cells or lone wolves to be punished after the fact. As a rising demographic group to be co-opted, appeased or ignored.

But no matter how you look at it, the West still only has one front against the Enemy - the State. This is asymmetry. The West does not have terror groups training militants to bomb and kill. The West doesn't have leaderless cells of Christians or Libertarians or cartoonists in Tehran plotting to kill the president or ordinary people. Multiculturalists are not doubling their numbers every two generations, expanding into other lands, demanding accommodation and assistance, changing the societies they enter. The West doesn't even send missionaries in any real numbers. The West sends diplomats and businessmen, not all of whom are on our side.

Can we continue to fight like this? Can the State, with all its limitations and restrictions fight against an Enemy that comes at us from so many different directions, at so many different speeds, with so many different weapons? What can a Stealth Fighter do against terror cells in Hamburg? How can diplomats fight assassins in Virginia? How can we expect spies to combat demography?

2 Comments:

Blogger Gurdjieff said...

The idea is good, but you could elaborate more on the matter financing. If you read the book “Modern Jihad, Tracing the dollars behind the terror networks” written by Loretta Napoleoni
Read the following:

Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks
by Loretta Napoleoni
295pp, Pluto, £17.99

The Sink: Terror, Crime and Dirty Money in the Offshore World
by Jeffrey Robinson
382pp, Constable, £18.99
As the legal system was to the last century, money laundering is to this: two key, secret activities that really make the world go round. The annual return generated by the illegal economy amounts to a staggering $1.5 trillion or thereabouts (it's hard to be precise). The bulk is recycled by western financial institutions, and the removal of this liquidity, in Loretta Napoleoni's opinion, would probably plunge western economies into deep recession. Dirty money is integral to the system.
The phrase money laundering was coined during Watergate. According to Jeffrey Robinson, Meyer Lansky, the American gangster, was the first modern criminal to grasp the benefits of financial hygiene by the simple precaution of capital flight. Frank Sinatra famously told the Nevada Gaming Commission, when accused of having smuggled $2 million in an attaché case into Havana on behalf of the Mob in 1947, "Show me an attaché case that can hold $2 million and you can have the $2 million."
The Sink offers a lively anecdotal guide to the laundry business and related scams extending from cable piracy to internet casinos, pyramid selling, telemarketing fraud, disguised loans, kickbacks, false end-user certificates for everything from cigarettes to arms, to something called death-spiralling, a scheme devised to run a company's share price into the ground while selling to mug punters. But for human ingenuity at its most calculated, Modern Jihad comes up with the example of opium-addicted camels being used to carry unaccompanied contraband across the Iranian desert, travelling from one fix to the next.
This giant, invisible game of Monopoly comes with one high card - epic greed - involving sums rarely less than fabulous: a $3.2 million kickback on an $8 million deal; the Duvaliers of Haiti pocketing $16 million of a $22 million IMF loan that wound up in the Channel Islands; Marcos's 1,241 tons of gold stashed at Zurich airport. This taste for wholesale, tax-free acquisition is accompanied by a talent for brass-neck denial, best of which comes from a prime minister of Antigua: "The big hurricane destroyed those documents"; always a useful call in off-shore Caribbean banking.
One of life's more useful bits of advice is "follow the money", a lesson often ignored. Napoleoni's utterly compelling, heroically researched and indispensible analysis follows nothing but, eschews what she calls the "trap of politics", sets out to trace Islamist terrorism to its financial roots and show how, as with everything else, there are grey areas. Osama bin Laden's acquisition of the Gum Arabic Company Ltd, which supplies 80% of world demand, gave him a monopoly in a vital ingredient that makes ink stick to newspaper and prevents sediment forming in soft drinks. The company fell under Clinton's 1997 sanctions against Sudan but was later exempted when US trade giants, including the Newspaper Association of America, protested that Gum Arabic was their only viable source. The alternative was to buy from their main competitors, the French, at much higher rates. Trade between Bin Laden's company and the US continued.
Napoleoni traces the rise of Islamic terrorism to the cold-war policy of sponsored counter-insurgency developed by the USSR and US. In the 1980s, the process became increasingly privatised and was matched by the terrorists' search for economic independence, which turned the armed struggle into a multimillion-dollar business and freedom fighters into entrepreneurs. The chapter on the PLO's wealth, estimated by the CIA in 1990 at $8-$14 billion, is worth a book in itself.
The end of the cold war was seen by many Muslims as marking the decline of the supremacy of western culture, and reading Modern Jihad it's hard to disagree. Financial corruption fed terrorism. William Casey, Reagan's CIA chief, used Pakistan and its BCCI bank as fronts to train Afghan rebels against the Soviets. Covert operations required a "black network" within the bank and its state equivalent, the notorious ISI. The bank financed and brokered covert arms deals, complete with full laundry service. The short and logical step from there was a BCCI/ISI/CIA move into drug smuggling to feed the needy, and leaky, money pipeline to the Mujahedin. The Pakistan-Afghan connection became the biggest single supplier of heroin to the US, meeting 60% of demand, with annual profits a stratospheric $100-$200 billion. Minus ideology, the process starts to look like one big money-go-round, with the new war being played out in a spectrum of failing states (Colombia), failed states (Sudan) and collapsed states (Somalia), all offering breeding grounds for terror.
It's also payback time for the Crusades. Bin Laden's 1996 appeal to Muslims sounds eerily similar to that made by Pope Urban II in 1095. Even more remarkable are the similarities between the economic climate that produced both, analysed with lucidity by Napoleoni, who emphasises that trade, both covert and legitimate, precedes terror, with the present conflict between "the big capital of the west and its eastern oligarchic alliances on the one hand and the masses of the east and an emerging merchant and banking class on the other".
Modern terrorism is about smart money, as understood by Bin Laden, aided by the invisibility of the internet, the old hawala system - an untraceable money flow where cash deposited in one country can be collected in another - and cemented by the mosque network, which provides as complex and comprehensive a web as its monetary counterpart. The sophistication of Bin Laden's financial portfolio, and his network's ability to manipulate the global stock market, match those of leading capitalist corporations: the financial killing made by his people from September 11 resulted in perhaps the biggest insider-trading operation ever.
Modern jihad is the last act in Kipling's great game, and the economics of oil, as usual, lie close to the surface. A murky financial network of dynastic ties shows that little separates the Bushes from the Bin Ladens - apart from a financial consultant and a merchant bank or two.

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,1104655,00.html

3:28 AM  
Blogger miriam said...

I am terrified of the scenario you mapped out---but I think it is a realistic one.

6:37 PM  

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