And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Heavy Lifting - The Terrorism Post

Okay, well, without going into too many details (which I'm not allowed to do anyway per standing order), I know a few things about terrorism and terrorists. This knowledge is pre-9/11. And it comes from people who have studied, in depth, and with the purpose and intent to keep our country safe and defeat terrorists worldwide. And the terrorists in the study include not only Islamic Terrorists, but Basque, Irish, Italian, Columbian, Honduran, Indonesian, Japanese, Palestinian, Greek, Egyptian, North African (Sudanese, Libyan, Moroccan) and US domestic terrorist groups.

Here it is, in a nutshell. Terrorist are political animals. As we used to joke about the Russians, terrorists don't crap in the morning unless their politics tells them it's okay. Terrorists are not interested in "freeing their brethren" or "seeing justice done" or any of that other happy horse puckey they like to spew out to the presses. Terrorists (once they've gone the route of terror) are interested in only one thing. Revolution and the overthrow of their "oppressor" government(s).

See, terrorists were once political activists. People who want to either see change or see themselves in power. And all those dreams and aspirations are quashed. Now, most people would be angry, rail against the machine, maybe try it again, or work a different vein to see if they could effect change. The terrorist is unreconcilable. The status quo (the reason their plans didn't come to fruition) is intolerable to them. There is no compromise (we'll get back to that), and they must continue their "good fight." This is the point where they change to terrorists.

At this time, they realize they will not achieve their dreams by persuasion. They also realize they will never garner enough support to directly challenge the targeted government(s). So they're willing to try a gamble. We can call it a desperate gamble, a far flung hope, a twisted mental condition. However, in the mind of the terrorist, it is the only option left available to them. They have given up their hope to be in charge, but, damnit, they'll take down the oppressive government.

This is important to understand. The terrorist has accepted (individually and as a group) that they will not survive. Sure, they might have some hope, but it no longer figures into their current operating mentality. The terrorists accept that they will not win. This is their actual compromise, "I will not be there to see it, but I will bring down those who thwarted me." And it's here where they have slight hope. In the chaos they sew, they will hope to be able to take control in the power vacuum once the government fails, before any another force can assume that roll. Yes, this is why a terrorist is called insane. This is their twisted mentality.

So, how does a terrorist, who knows they don't have the money, manpower, or populist appeal to it themselves overthrow a government? They get the population, the governed, to do it. Again, a terrorist is a political animal. The people who drive the ideology are not idiots. They are highly educated and intellectual people and they think about politics all the time. Everything to them, as it was to the Revolutionaries of the early 20th century, is political. They will use politics.

There is a basic compact between the governed and the government. We can talk about "surf and turf" all day, but these days governments are formed (for the most part) on the contract between the governed and the government that the governed will relinquish some freedoms (like, I can't kill my neighbor just because his goat wanders on my land) for the establishment of law, order, and our mutual protection.

Remember that. Law. Order. Mutual Protection. And this is what the terrorist will strike at. They will attempt to sever those bonds between the governed and the government, driving the governed to revolt against the government and violently overthrow them. Again, they are willing to die to get this revolution started, although they hold out hope that once it does, in the chaos they will be able to gather enough support to take the reigns of power at the end.

And so they kill civilians. They very people they hope will rise up. Why? Because they're making their political point that the government can no longer protect them. That strikes at the first leg of the tripod agreement. They kill those civilians with great violence, wantonness, and in such a way to create the greatest amount of disorder in society. That strikes at the second leg. And they hope the government, desperate to keep their power, responding to the outrageousness and deliberate undermining of our social processes (9/11 - they used our air travel and subverted both the minimal security protecting us there, and our preconception that all hijackers would negotiate - this, both of these, were the main reason the attacks were carried out this way, it was part of the attack) will respond by violating their own laws, the civil liberties of the citizens/subject, and react in the same barbaric tone to kill the terrorists (which they can never fully do, the result of the highly asymmetrical war). All of these are the intent and work to the plans of the terrorist.

The effects of this are what the terrorists are after (not the actual deaths of civilians, that's just lighting the fuse to the bomb). And, it's normally where their plans are foiled. Unless the targeted government takes the bait and violates their own charters, limit the rights of the people they govern, and respond outside the laws of their own nation and their treaties with others. This is when things start rolling for the terrorists.

The people are afraid (that whole terror thing). And they see their government breaking the implied compact to keep them safe, abide by the law, and not infringe further on their own rights. Fear is a tiring emotion. And when the people grow tired of fear, it will turn to anger. Only, who will they be angry with? The terrorists, or the government that violated the contract and still hasn't been able to make them safe? This is the terrorist's opportunity. It's the whole reason why they make horrific attacks, it is to get to this point. An angry populace that is looking to revenge and to take back their government.

Does this start to sound familiar, yet?

At this point the terrorists will strike again, but their attack will be slightly different. It will be designed to show the government is not as stable or as strong as the people think it is. They hope this will plant the seed that the people can re-take their government, and form a new one that will keep them safe, restore their freedoms, and live within the new confines they've made for it.


This is why terrorists should be treated as criminals and prosecuted within the law. And here, I should say, when they aren't shot in the street like rabid dogs we should try them as criminals. They are not an army. We can't fight a "war" against them. Again, this doesn't mean we shouldn't use the tools of the state to hunt them down and kill them. We shouldn't, however, give them higher status than that of common thugs. We shouldn't create special procedures for them, special courts, special rules. Our government shouldn't have changed any laws to go after them. We already can hunt them down, arrest them (if we can), and try them as murders and crooks with what we had. This regulates their attacks to only one leg of the tripod. And the more we put them away, the stronger that last leg becomes.

Those that we can't find we need to neuter or compromise. This is where the FBI has done a spectacular job in fighting domestic terrorism. They infiltrate, arrest the "masterminds" and compromise and subvert the rest. The movements are then neutered and powerless. Kill the head and the body dies. This is the difference between the FBI and Mossad. Mossad is willing to go "extra-constitutional" as we used to call it. Their focus is also to kill the body and get the head when they can. And this is why they're still fighting the same groups, and those groups have the backing of foreign governments (even though their politics don't align).

That's the basic math. Of course, in practicality it gets calculous and high sadistic statistics in the real world. Many of my friends have more recent experience with this. Is there something I missed or didn't explain well? Are there any questions? Something I glossed over because I've gone over it in my head so many times I keep forgetting the rest of you haven't been there? I'll probably write more at some point, about the particulars of certain events (in the past and recent) and how they tie in. But that's the nutshell.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Working with debaters this year, I've learned all about social contracts - I may print this out for our new debaters next year.

I like your analysis about terrorists. I can't say I've spent any brainwaves on this, but what you say does make sense - in an American tripartite governmental system. Would terrorist activity against a non-democratic government work, such as China or Saudi Arabia?

Is it also of some note that virtually every Islamic suicide-bombing terrorist has been educated in the west? What about the fact that almost all of them (I'm hedging here, I think the report said all) are engineers or engineering students?

Inherent in this perspective is that the terrorist expects his point of view to be accepted as the new norm for the attacked government. Is this borne out in any case? Northern Ireland is still under British rule despite nearly a century of violence. In the Mideast, we see that formerly terrorist groups have been granted land in exchange for peace* but have not brought down Israel. Why do you think that is? Neither Turkey nor Iraq have fallen to the Kurds. Has terrorism successfully pulled down any attacked nation?

So what in the terrorists' mindset convinces them that their worldview will prevail should the government fall? They do not have a conquering army to fill in the power vacuum, nor will they likely to be received as victors if they are perceived to be the cause of the social collapse.

Unless the targeted government takes the bait and violates their own charters, limit the rights of the people they govern, and respond outside the laws of their own nation and their treaties with others.

Do you really think they believe this? In the case of Islamic terrorists, they barely believe in rights-natural, human or civil. Do they really care if the government they hate reduces freedoms that they themselves deny? If their only goal is to create a power vacuum with as little expense but their lives, what good are rights?

An angry populace that is looking to revenge and to take back their government.
Are you referring to the Tea Party, by chance? Do you think that Tea Partiers are responding to their lack of freedoms under the Patriot Act?

I have mixed opinions about how to deal with captured terrorists. I believe we are at war, albeit one without an attacking nation. However, we have seen this type of war before: the war with the Barbary pirates in the early 1800s. I don’t believe any of the pirates were returned to the US for trial by jury – the US Navy undoubtedly strung up those they captured and sank the rest – in their own waters. Maritime law does equal martial law, yes?

Because I believe we’re at war, I think that those taken as prisoners in the war should be given military justice, not civil justice. Therefore, I incline toward giving the combatants to a tribunal for trial at the end of the war when they are captured in a war zone.

The Fruit-of-the-Loom Bomber, I’m less clear-cut about. In the past, how were saboteurs treated – as political prisoners, as prisoners of war, or as civilian criminals? While I’m not suggesting that French or German precedents guide us, I am curious to know how they treated saboteurs during WWII and post war, and how collaborators were punished within the law. As the FotLBomber is known to be a member of Al Qaeda which has declared war on the US, he is a military combatant and military law ought to apply. However, as he was apprehended on US soil, perhaps the civil law ought to apply. I’m conflicted.

I look forward to more posts from you.

Anonymous Cassie

Steve Buchheit said...

Cassie, I think you missed the point that the terrorists have fully embraced the thought that they will not be around to see their work to the end. I'm not talking about suicide bombing here. The terrorists have accepted the high probability that, by the time the populace revolts, they will have been killed.

To them, survival is no longer the driving factor. The only motivation is to overthrow the target government. What comes afterward (while they hope to seize power in the chaos, which is a whole other long post about how most revolutions fail at their first attempts to self-govern, except for "strong man" coups, which the terrorists have already shown they can be brutal) is no longer the actual goal.

And yes, terrorism actually works better against non-democratic based systems. Our strongest weapon against terrorism is that we have possibility of mini-revolutions with each election cycle. Our own system still embraces "citizen" politicians (which is why the discussion of "political dynasty" in the US is so troubling). Both of these facts defuse the terrorist's plans by letting off the steam of the populace. Without those mechanisms, the terrorist's plans take deeper root in the populace.

Al-Qaeda is (or was) very active in Saudi Arabia. The the Fahd family has worked very hard to diffuse their influence (relaxing laws and restrictions). China is also beset by Uyghurs, whom they claim are terrorists (you may remember we have a few in Gitmo and we're trying to figure out what to do with them, as China would surely torture them upon return and we've determined they aren't actual terrorists).

So the terrorists don't expect their philosophy of government to win the day. They only expect that the government they targeted to not win. It's a complex argument. They win by denying their opponents a victory. Even if they're dead and won't enjoy it.

Steve Buchheit said...

And many of them have been educated in the West, because the smart ones get sent here for schooling. The bomber (guy, woman, kid) who detonates the vest isn't the prime example. It's the people who motivate, move the money, and do the support who are the main problems.

And yes, they believe that by forcing the target government to abandon their principles (rights, laws, etc) they will win. Even if they disagree with those rights and laws. Because, remember, they're trying to get the populace to rise up and do the fighting for them (note here, the populace won't use the terrorists as their cause, but because their government has become corrupt, despotic, ignores their will, takes away their rights and doesn't keep them safe). This isn't about their ideology being triumphant. It's about overthrowing the government.

And yes, I do link the anger in many people these days, including their rhetoric, to the Bush Administration's failure to understand what we've known since the 80s. They thought they could control the fear response, instead of reassuring people they were safe (the argument, you're only safe because we're strong, was a corner stone of their policy, and still is, it's what D. Cheney is all about these days). the Tea Party is responding to 1) their anger, 2) a vague feeling "something ain't right" and 3) the feeling their government isn't their own anymore.

The talk of "revolution" and "taking back the government" is exactly what Al Qaeda wants to hear. It's exactly their goal.

Does that mean everybody in the Tea Party is doing this because of those things? No. Does it mean the Tea Party is an Al Qaeda front? No. However, I do see the TP Movement as an outgrowth of the overall strategy of Al Qaeda (to foment revolution in the populace).

Again, the strategy is this. Al Qaeda knows they can't overthrow our government by themselves (they have neither the manpower or time). They want us to do it for them. And really, they don't care who rules the US (there's actually been some contacts between White Supremicists and Islamic groups, "giving" the WS north America and Northern Europe, leaving the Islamic groups the former Caliphate). As long as the current US government can't respond to stop their plans for the middle east (and northern africa, southern europe), they're fine with whomever takes over.

Steve Buchheit said...

Since you might be wondering about the White Supremacists and Islamic connection
a Salon editorial.

a CNN article (2005)