Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terrorism Symposium

The September/October 2006 issue of The National Interest will feature a special symposium for the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In light of the plot to use liquid explosives to destroy American airliners, some of the comments are quite relevant to this developing story.

Michael Scheuer opened his remarks quite simply: “America will be attacked by Al-Qaeda again, and more destructively than on 9/11. Why? Simple. Our bipartisan governing elites willfully refuse to recognize the severity of the Islamist threat. They are waging a feckless war that misrepresents the enemies' motivation, keeps borders open, applies insufficient force, and pursues status quo foreign polices, ensuring the next Islamist generation is more anti-American and numerous—and still has the opportunity to strike the American homeland.”

Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation reminds us that, despite “the scale of the damage caused to the United States, the 9/11 attacks neither required much money to execute, nor did they take a large number of plotters. Terrorism is a cheap form of warfare—the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, for instance, only cost a few thousand dollars. This is particularly the case when you have a cadre of young men willing to engage in suicidal terrorism. According to court documents entered in the trial of Al-Qaeda’s Zacarias Moussaoui, the entire 9/11 operation cost a little over $200,000, a trivial sum considering the damage it inflicted on the United States. Furthermore, no amount of money will buy you 19 young men willing to commit suicide in a terrorist operation. The pilots who flew the hijacked planes into two of the world’s most famous buildings saw what they were doing as an act of worship.”

Anthony Sullivan points out that “it is often assumed that any Al-Qaeda operation would necessarily be designed to achieve a greater body count than 9/11. This may not be true. Whatever else it is, terrorism is psychological warfare. Recall the enormous psychological impact of the anthrax attacks, and their ability to cause mass hysteria and paralyze the federal government, despite the fact that only a handful of victims died. The fact is that Al-Qaeda may now not consider an enormous body count to be necessary, when nearly the same societal impact might be obtained by using a stinger missile (for example) to knock down one civilian aircraft landing or taking off, or placing a few bombs in different malls around the country, or (as was planned in 2000 for the Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan) by placing poison in a luxury hotel’s circulation system. In any such case, public hysteria would explode, and a significant part of the U.S. infrastructure would grind to a standstill.”

Alexis Debat of the Nixon Center joins with TNI’s editor Nikolas Gvosdev to warn, “The ability to inflict mass destruction is no longer expensive or does it require particularly advanced technology. Richard Reids shoebomb explosive in December 2001 was a crude and deadly home-made nitrocellulose mix made of melted ping pong balls and nail polish remover it was not a clever James Bond-style device that could only have been provided by the intelligence service of a major power. A BBC investigation estimated that the 7/7 London bombings, which killed 52 people and injured hundreds and paralyzed the British capital, cost only slightly more than $1,000 to carry out. While it has not disappeared as evidenced by the events in Lebanon this summer state-sponsored terrorism is gradually receding in the face of ego-terrorism, or political violence waged by a single individual or non-state group but with the means of a state. Whatever happens next in the „war on terror, mass destruction will remain only a mouse click, a credit card and a rental truck away. During the Cold War, we could not all be potential superpowers, but today, we are all potential terrorists.

“Being the most open society in the world, America is not well organized for this type of conflict. Its federal structure and philosophy of competition between centers of power are considerable, if not insurmountable roadblocks to the centralization of intelligence or homeland security responsibilities, and its archipelago of law enforcement entities from the local to the federal level makes homeland security a Herculean task. The biggest strength of Al-Qaeda is its capacity to hide its operatives, finances, and bomb-making material within the global flows on which the United States draws its economic and political power to turn the free flow of goods, people and information as weapons against us. We cannot pay the price of isolationism; we have to develop better tools for trying to filter the global pathways and determine what level of risk we are prepared to accept in exchange for the benefits of an open global system.”

The discussion seems to have focused on the needs and prospects of defending against terrorist attack. Was there any new ideas in answer to the question of whether and how radicalism can be attenuated?

The recent incident in England is good news in that it seems to show police work and counter-intelligence at its best, and homeland security moving quickly once a threat is identified.

But it also suggests that those charged with anticipating these loopholes have trouble doing so until an incident occurs, even when the danger is apparent (as was the case with liquid explosives, which were first attempted on an Asian flight a decade ago).

If we are continually going to play catch-up in this way, we need to embrace a larger definition of what were are trying to change in the world.
Musharef shortly after 9/11 delivered a speach, (I believe before the UN) which likened terrorism to a tree. I don't have the exact quote, but the metaphor and the point was that any horticulturalist knows that a tree cannot be destoyed by trimming branches, or clipping leaves. It must be taken out by the roots.

As the fascist warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government continue the ghoulish exploitation of 9/11, and the recent "plot" "foiled" out of London for political and economic gain, - the "realists" are forced to recognize that -

America is no more secure today, than prior to 9/11,

The Bush governments fascist imperialist predatory policies, bloodletting and profiteering in Iraq have provided a recuiring bonanza for the manyfaced jihadist enemies of America,

These enemies are capable of sending the entire world into turmoil, and disturbing our economies, (and transportation systems in the current case) by innovative utilization of readily available convention items, and in some cases weapons (IED, RPG's, AK-47's, box cutters) and small amounts of financial resources.

We are no closer to defeating these enemies today, that we were prior to 9/11.

Deliver us from evil.
The real question is how much was the recent plot detected and broken up by non-Americans (e.g. the British and Pakistanis)--which raises the question about outsourcing of U.S. security but also how we are dependent on other regimes and their goodwill towards us.
I'd like to call TWR readers' attention to Alexis' latest reporting from the field in Pakistan, The Man Who Is Planning the Next Attack on America, about Metiur Rehman, Al-Qaeda's planning director.


It would not be a worthwhile effort if the US adminstration has double standards regarding terrorism.
On one hand Gen.Musharraf of Pakistan is considered a very important ally, but his country time and again has been in the headlines for the very wrong reasons. Nearly all the terrorists captured, now and earlier during the London tube attack have had their origins in Pakistan.
While India had been crying out loud for long that very little is being done to rein in and close the training camps of terrorists in Pakistan , there was very little condemnation from the west.
It has come down to such a situation now after the failed plot that the US had to ban all direct flights from Pakistan to the US.
Does the US realise that Musharraf is on a very slippery ground of his own making? Unless the US puts pressure on Pakistan to dismantle all training camps and hunt down sleeper cells of Al Qaeda, even the ones involved in terrorism in the Kashmir valley, such involvements of Pakistanis will be routine.
Susenjit Guha:

I suspect that it is actually worse than you describe:

My guess is that, at a minimum, the Sunni terrorists in Iraq and else where are supported & funded by large segments of the populations of US-allied governments of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan.

I would not be surprised to learn that certain elements of the Saudi Arabian government are also involved in funding the Sunni insuregency in Iraq.

Just my guess.
You may be right!
The Saudi royalty knows very well that the majority of his countrymen including ther largest export to the world, Osama simply disapproves of their lifestyle and their alliance with the US.
Taking that into account, they would not go against popular opinion while appearing to support US efforts.
Sure! And add to this growing dislike of US arrogance around the world and if US is successfully hit again then there will no headlines saying we are all Americans appearing again. Public condemnation coupled with private support is standard operating procedure in that part of the world.
Susenjit Guha,

It seems to me that India has as much interest as the United States in the use of Pakistan as a base for terrorism. India is not without leverage either but obviously must be careful in how it responds to terror attacks traceable to its neighbor.

Once it became clear that al-Qaida was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, we took military action against al-Qaida's principal sanctuary, Afghanistan. We have not gone after them in Pakistan, however, because we consider the risk of destabilizing a partially friendly regime there greater than the risk of allowing the remnants of al-Qaida to take sanctuary there.

The only event that I think could change this US policy would be if terrorists traceable to Pakistan carried out an attack on the United States comparable to (or greater than) 9/11 and the Islamabad government did not or could not respond effectively.

Does India think along similar lines in relation to Pakistan and anti-Indian groups based there? Or does the nuclear situation raise the threshhold for provocation?
David Billington,

You are partly right about the nuclear situation being a deterrent for India.

Even now there is enough proof of involvement of terrorists from within Pakistan without any effective response from their government. But the moment India contemplates in 'going for the terrorists where they live', there will be opposition from the US itself.

India's threat is from two sides : Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even though a democratic government is in power in the latter, it is virtually controlled by religious fundamenatlists. Time had reported long ago about the burgeoning haven and training ground for terrorists that is Bangladesh. Groups are linked to Pakistan and Indonesia and some are direct offshoots of Al Qaeda.

Lastly, as you said, in case Pakistan fails to respond after groups based there carry on an attack worse than 9/11 forcing US to change tack, India will be effected more than anyone else as fleeing Al Qaeda members and refugees will turn toward India.

Indian borders are very porous and the terrain in the north western hills are challenging for even Israeli border guards.
As the world population increases, it is likely that we will have more and more groups that feel and believe that they have been wronged. These groups, then, under a variety of circumstances, resort to terrorism to make a point, advance their "cause", or exact revenge.

One should expect this type of phenomenon every where. We already have had Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu terrorism in the sub-Continent. We have had McVeigh and OBL in US, we have had IRA in UK, and we have had the right-wing Christian terrorism in Italy.

This type of activity can only be combatted with a long period of intelligence work. This is not police work. It is more akin to what the British did in India against the Thugs.

Nowadays, the principal cause of conflict happens to be religious differences.

If the issue is economic or one of exploitation and is on for a fairly long time, the victim begins to weigh the disparities on communal lines. It has become a phenomenon, but not without contradictions.

Noble laureate Amartya Sen had mentioned in his book on conflicts that poor economic conditions drive people toward suicidal attacks. The men behind 9/11 were all from relatively wealthy Arab families.

I guess more and more micro level inter-faith communities involving themselves jointly in social work, instead of their individual religious organisations, may help in arresting the drift of the impressionable young toward the hellfire-and-brimstone of religious radicalism.
Susenjit Guha:

"more and more micro level inter-faith communities involving themselves jointly in social work..."

This won't do.

The issue really is who is to rule whom and it cannot be settled the way you describe.
That is exactly what I said.

I fmore and more people from differenrt communities work in unison for a common social problems without exclusive bodies based on religion, the differences will gradually dissipate and the sense of exclusivity will vanish.

It is along hard process, but it is the only gainful way to involve more and more energetic youngsters who would else go join the radicals
susenjit guha:

The problems among states are not social.

US wants to be hegemon of ME-some ME states resist that. This is not a social problem-this is all about power of states.
While there are some ME states and their citizens who vehemently oppose US domination in the region, there are some states where the entrenched elite and royalty bend backwards to please the US.

People of these states are not known to support each and every action of the royalty and elite. They despise them, but voices are stifled as the states follow monarchial totalitarianism.
It is like a burning fire covered with ash. A strong breeze will be enough to disrupt the illusory calm.

Now that USSR is no more, the US, instead of exerting influence evrywhere and distancing everybody, can go in for selective engagements where US interests are directly at stake. Is power worth pursuing when the stakes are not that high? During USSR regime, communist threat was there, but now exertion of unnecessary power will only create more Hezbollas in the region leaving the US with Israel as the solitary ally in the region.

And statements from the US extolling Israeli victory in the recent war with Hezbollah will only help in increasing the already swelling number of anti-US brigade in the ME.
Susenjit Guha:

In ME, US is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to support its position. EU will support US in that activity if and when push comes to shove.

Since I do not know the parameters of US position, I cannot comment as to when and how US will be exercising more power than now to salvage it position in the Levant and the Persian Gulf.

As to the justifications for the US policies; US is a sovreign state and can choose what it wants to do.

At any rate, US is not alone in enjoying fantasies of power projection; there are the Hindu imperialists that still covet Sri Lanka, Burma, ....

Hindu imperialists are in the sidelines. They do not enjoy power in the government exclusively.

Their outbirsts can be likened to the fundamenatlists who breathe fire in the name of Jesus like Macveigh and the odds. And the process of democracy ensures that they remain on the fringes without coming too close for comfort.

And you are right about the US being a sovereign country with freedom to choose whom to court and whom to admonish. But Nixon reminded in his collected observation ''Beyond Peace'' that understanding the hallmarks of Muslim culture will help further US interests and impression in the ME and elsewhere as well. Unfortunately the present US adminstration, faced with the worst of challenges, initially reacted without a clear policy keeping in mind parameters necessary for dealing with the ME.

Sadly, knee-jerk remarks without a clear perspective and a 20/20 hindsight is exactly the reason for rising anti-US sentiments in the Muslim world.

Lastly, to gain success in the ME, the US atleast has to appear equidistant from Israel and the Arab countries.
Susenjit Guha:

US is a protestant Christian polity. There are limits to its understanding of the cultures different than itself. Protestant Christians believe that they can have a one-to-one and personal relationship with God. This is embedded in their psyche. Thus, they are not prepared to listen to others. You can see this is US policies in Latin America: she is deaf to the concerns of others, pursuing her own interests.

Islam has been in ferment for more than 150 years. Over that time period, it has successfully ejected Western powers from more and more Islamic countries. There is no end is sight to this process of emregent native power.

US & EU want to maintain their power and influence in the Islamic countries. Over the long term, that is not feasible. But, they will try. Specially US whose culture cannot admnit the existence of unreachable goals (it is in their blood).

Of ocurse, this is all abstract and too generalized to be of much help in formulating day-to-day polciy. But I hope it will make it possible to begin to think of the the process of policy formulation in US the same way that one thinks about the process of polciy formulation in a non-Western country.

You should realise that the US itself is now multi-cultural and the lure of freedom and democracy brought in people from all corners of the globe irrespective of race , religion and social standing.

It is a paradigm shift from the 50's and 60's when only Anglo-Saxons, Europeans of all races, Christians all could be found in the across the US. Now different communities, their places of worship, their language schools are spread coast to coast. So, a non-relativist approach owing to a predominantly Protestant polity, as you mentioned, can do more harm than good. They are all into their second generations and US citizens to boot, who deserve an understanding of their roots and culture by mainstream US citizens dating back to the Mayflower days.

I guess if that was the lodestar of the US government when doors were opened to non-white, non-European immigrants, then undestanding non-Christian cultures by a predominantly Protestant polity would would not have been so hard.

The effort that is being put now to familiarise with alien cultures and society has come a bit too late.

Under the present Bush adminstration, all foreign policy tenets and maxims by former US mandarins have been turned on their head. From making the world safe for democracy, it has comme to such a passe that a preemptive strike has become apparent when ever and wherever a regime change is warranted.

It has nothing to do with direct or indirect harm to the US, it has got more to do with a mission to forcibly democratise without the need to assess if the 'suffering' people are ready or not.

The US should not forget that the democracy that has become a global watchword took many years and much bloodshed to attain in the US itself.
Susenjit Guha:
This so-called "Democracy Project" of US is just an instrument to inspire her own population as well as gullible foreigner as to the nobility of her cause.

Her aim, however, is quite transparent: pursuit of increase in her power in areas such as ME, FSU where her position is not secure.

Please note that US has had no problems with autocracy or dictatorship either in East Asia or in the Western Hemisphere (except when they are non-aligned against her).

By the way, the right to pre-emption is a recognized principle of the international law. What is disturbing about US is the abuse of that principle to further her own interests against states that are not a threat to her (although they might be a threat to her strategies).

I would also like to add that EU is also not that far behind US in this approach: their kitsch is "Human Rights" and "Humanitarianism".

But the fundamental desire for the maintenance and enhancement of state power in the international arena is behind all this.
Don't you try to find why these terrorisms are breading?

Please try to find and then you know what to confront.....

I pitty you fighting a fake enemy... Which conceals real enemy comfortably....
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