WHEN THE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM IS A SOCIETY
Since 9-11 the debate over American strategy in fighting the War on Terror has revolved around the unresolved question of whether the primary threat of terrorism comes from Rogue states like Iraq and Iran or from non-state actors like al Qaida and Islamic Jihad.
Some voices, often neoconservative ones
, point to state sponsored terrorism
as the ultimate question to resolve and suggest that even al Qaida relies to some extent on states like Syria and Iran providing support
or turning a blind eye to terrorists passing through their territory. This view has deeply influenced the Bush administration's prosecution of the war, being one reason for the invasion of Iraq and the continuing American pressure on the neighboring states of Iran and Syria. These two states have, like Iraq, long been in the business of sponsoring various terror groups, notably Lebanon's Hezbollah
based in the Bekaa valley but also including various PLO factions.
The other view, often promoted by critics of the Iraq invasion
, favor the non-state actor explanation
that Osama bin Laden is a " super-empowered individual "
with the technological means and the ideological motives to usurp the sovereign prerogative of a state to wage war. Advocates of this paradigm are split as to whether groups like al Qaida require a military solution or should be left primarily to intelligence agencies and law enforcement personnel to deal with but they tend to be united in the view that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake.
Of course, the possibility that these two types of terrorism bleed over in to one another is usually ignored for the sake of rhetorical clarity or is dismissed because one form of terror is presumed to be dominant. There is however another form of terrorism that has become evident in Saudi Arabia
since 9/11 but has been seldom identified as distinct - " Socially Sponsored Terrorism "
- when a society or at least a politically significant portion of one rather than the state itself becomes the motive force for supporting acts of terrorism. The state in turn is either unable or unwilling to bring the supporters of terror to heel
but attempts to keep a lid on their most flagrant actions for appearances sake or for quid pro quo favors from states victimized by terrorists.
Socially Sponsored Terrorism represents a manifold problem for the United States Government which is why it has not been concretely acknowledged as a separate category of terror. Ominously, it suggests that the terrorist group, in this case al Qaida, is evolving into something more dangerous than a highly compartmentalized organization of terrorist cells- a true insurgency
backed by a widespread political-ideological movement
Except for being transnational, Socially Sponsored Terrorism begins to mirror in form and capabilities the older ideological guerilla movements like the Vietminh
of Indochina, the Tamil Tigers
and Sendero Luminoso
, all of which rest or rested on a base of civilian support. It's a much bigger problem than quashing the Red Brigades
and suggests the need for large-scale counterinsurgency operations
not conventional occupation or law enforcement counter-terrorism task forces.
Secondly, it brings to the fore the question so far avoided by the Bush administration - what to do with states like Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia
that are too weak to control the powerful Islamist factions within their societies that sponsor terrorism or are schizophrenic
in their political structure like Iran ?
I suggest that we view the solution from two possible directions " Hard " and " Soft".
The Hard Solution argues that the sovereign cannot escape accountability from actions emanating from their territory and the United States must, at an intelligently chosen moment, give these regimes an ultimatum to choose between brutally crushing the supporters of terror or being counted as an enemy state. This is a high risk " Perdicaris alive or Rasuli dead!"
approach but it is a crossroad that we are likely to come to anyway. If the Social Sponsors of Terror within Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are left unmolested to grow more powerful they will ultimately threaten the security of these states as well as neighboring countries. As it is, Musharraf has nearly been assassinated twice and as he goes, so goes Pakistan.
While Musharraf and the House of Saudi have an evident self-interest in destroying their domestic lunatic fringe they are also restrained by two things fear and no small amount of sympathy with the ideas of the Islamist fringe, even if they view particular Islamists or groups as dangerous. If these malcontents were democratic activists or feminist engaging in terror neither Islamabad and Riyadh would not have spared the grapeshot by this point in time. A fair portion of the foot dragging is by choice, not circumstance. We have to view things realistically - most of the population of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are enthusiastically our enemies in a bloodthirsty way not seen since the Japanese Imperial Army ravaged the Pacific.
The Soft Solution lies in Dr. Barnett's PNM strategy
, recognizing that a large part of the problem is the disconnectedness and isolation of these two Gap states, as in Afghanistan under the Taliban, helps make the festering ideological nightmare of a worldview that is Islamism not only possible but entirely plausible. Often times, the Islamists provide the only intellectually coherent and courageous opposition to corrupt Middle-Eastern tyrannies and these activists acquire merit in the eyes of fellow subjects for opposing both the " Great Satan" America ( which the regime also abuses and blames) but the corruption and misrule of the local despot. Opening these regimes up to outside influences, arguments, goods and supporting liberal elements the way we once supported Solidarity in Poland or glasnost era dissidents is a must.
It's a much slower road but this is a war that cannot be won simply by bullets and boots on the ground though we need to use the bullets with greater precision and ruthlessness and we desperately need more boots
. Facing the global insurgency of al Qaida and Socially Sponsored Terrorism, we also need to use all the arrows in our quiver.
Even the more altruistic ones.
Having just read the recent opinion of Germany's intel chief
that bin Laden is, as previous sources suggest, alive somewhere on the Afghanistan-Pakistani border it might also be high time to stop thinking about the Islamic world in terms of Mercator map nation-state borders.
The border region of those two Central Asian states is really Pushtunistan and to the Pashtun tribesmen the border is as meaningless a line to them today as it was in the days of the Raj. We need to begin looking at the Gap states and forming our strategy using ethnographic maps and not just ones with lines demarcated by 19th century European imperialists. Our foes think of themselves in terms of Ummah and tribe and we should pay heed.