Monday, November 22, 2004

First, I'd like to apologize for the long delay. Things kept me busy all weekend and then on Monday night I worked on this post for a good hour plus and then - I'm not sure if the problem was Blogger, my server or my hard drive but something ate my goddam post in an apocalypse of error coding ! This caused a minor tantrum and my shutting the computer off in disgust

Andrew at Politics, Applied asked the following questions in the comments ( in bold blue italics) on Friday. Under each question I added my commentary and invite others to post theirs or provide a longer rebuttal on other blogs and I'll update this post with the appropriate links.

1. What are our goals in the GWOT? What are the goals of the extreme Islamists?

The goals of the radical Islamists as I interpret them from their own words, actions and commentary of Western experts:

Very Long Term - a unified, ultimately worldwide, Caliphate that enforces a radical Salafist version of the Sharia.

Long Term - the overthrow of all " apostate" Muslim regimes, the destruction of Israel, the removal of American/Western/Modern/Globalization/Core influences from the Ummah. The expansion of Islamist Sharia state regimes to encompass all the lands once under Muslim rule. For some Sunni-Salafi-Qutbist radicals, the destruction of the Shiite, Ismaili, Alawite and Sufi "heretics" is an important ideological-religious goal.

Medium Term - the capture of a state for the establishment of a Sharia Emirate base with an ideological emphasis on Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for various reasons. Impose severe costs on the United States and it's allies in the GWOT through acts of " spectacular" mass destruction terrorism. Political and religious radicalization of the Ummah.

Short Term - destabilization of Afghanistan and Iraq. Covert infiltration of failed or failing states or outlier regions in Africa, Asia and South America. Covert infiltration of the United States and it's allies by operational and support teams for acts of terror. Maintain secure financial support, communication and recruiting networks. Continuous training of al Qaida insiders to have a " deep " bench to replace operational managers killed or captured by American forces. Acts of " unspectacular " terror such as kidnappings, car bombings and beheadings to maintain visibility and credibility.

Very Short Term - maintain day to day security network for OBL and top leadership, small insurgency operations, support activities, propaganda in online al Qaida journals.

The Islamists have goals that range from the practical, tactical and operational to the memetic-ideological to the simply fantastic on a scale not envisioned since Hitler's plans for the East in the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa. American goals in the GWOT are or should be the following:

Very Long Term - spread of liberal, market economy, democratic regimes across the Muslim World so that they can move up and become " New Core " states like India.

Long Term - Discrediting, marginalization and defeat of Islamism as an ideology on par with Fascism and Communism. International acceptance of terrorism as a crime against humanity on par with slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Regime change of all rogue state sponsors of terror and WMD proliferation. Resolution of the Palestinian problem with a secular, liberal, democratic republic of Palestine at peace with Israel and economically secure in a regional common market.

Medium Term - death of all top and middle level al Qaida leaders and those of related Islamist groups. Destruction of all terror bases worldwide. Regime change in a second rogue state, preferably by diplomatic means. Establishment of a robust, militarily active, anti-terror coalition with Russia, China, Israel, India and the willing European states. Stabilization of an Iraqi egime with democratic legitimacy. Expansion of Karzai regime authority to all major cities and towns. Core consensus on priority of non-proliferation efforts. Restructuring of the American military for the GWOT and to operationally divide " Leviathan " and System Administration" tasks.

Short Term - Containment and degradation of Iraqi insurgency. Interdiction and termination of Iranian nuclear bomb program, by force if required. Coordinated, worldwide raids on suspected al Qaida supporters, hide-outs, bases and mosques. Disruption of financial flows to from the gulf to radical Islamist madrassa. Substantial increases/investments in HUMINT and Special Operations capabilities , analysis and linguistic personnel. Set up an operational, systemic, program to engage the Islamists in the war of ideas.

2. Does a stated policy of deterrence on our part inhibit the goals of the extreme Islamists so as to prevent a nuclear attack within the US?

Good question. No one knows though bin Laden reportedly told the BBC that he had acquired nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes which indicates:

a) That bin Laden understands the concept well enough, and

b) There is something he considers important enough to acquire nuclear bombs in order to deter America from some action.

The question is "what" ? My guess it is to protect Islam's Holy sites.

3. If a nuclear terrorist attack ouccurs within the US, what kind of respnse would serve our goals? Would our goals remain the same in such an event?

I think a limited nuclear strike and the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans would render most previous considerations and goals moot. The ante having been upped by our enemies our response would be to ensure that such an event would not happen again by demonstrating the costs. The political pressure for anything less than massive retaliation would be enormous and well-nigh unstoppaple. It would be the Mother of all System Perturbations with historic, global, consequences.

Our goal has to be to prevent that decision point from ever being reached.

UPDATE I: JB at riting on the wall takes up Andrew's questions. I encourage you in particular to take a hard look at his analysis of Liberal, Moderate and Radical Islamists which spans prettty well the POV from Mohammed Abduh to al-Afghani and Rida to Sayyid Qutb.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Centerfeud has a post " They're Out There" on Muslims who reject the extremist agenda and have, bravely in some instances, taken up rhetorical arms against the Islamists and terrorists.
I haven't responded to these questions not because I think they aren't worth answering (I think they are) nor because I don't have any answers (I've got them) but because my answers are so different from what's actually going on that I can't envision any real purpose being served by my airing my opinions on the subject.

I do have a response to the question about our response in case of a nuclear terrorist attack here with hundreds of thousands or millions of deaths. Our objectives in responding would be three-fold:

1. To prevent categorically a repeat attack.
2. To degrade the resources of potential counter-attackers to the point where they could be mopped up fairly easily.
3. Vengeance.

I would expect between 100-400 million deaths as the result of our response, mostly Muslims and mostly Arabs.

Needless to say I'm not recommending such action and I believe that we should be willing to go to very great lengths, indeed, to prevent such a course of events including preemptive attacks, regime changes, and ejection of resident alien populations.

I believe that the actions of our own intellectual and media elites in this country have contributed tremendously to something like this happening.
As usual you got my brain going again. Thanks for the post. My two cents:
If we turn the dial back a decade or so, the islamists were losing. Yes even with the Taliban and some form of sharia law in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the forces of globalization, of connectivity, were spreading throughout the globe, exposing previously cut-off societies to a "global" culture (if by no other means than the satellite dish). The writing was on the wall. They could see where the world was heading and wanted no part of it. I think this point is important because it means that the islamists think that they have nothing to lose; their way of life is doomed. It also means they are very dangerous. Attacking the U.S. on 9/11 makes perfect sense. What better way to try and affect change than to attack one of the main forces for globalization, the U.S., and do it in the name of Allah. 9/11 was a major defeat for the U.S. from a number perspectives. First it was a system perturbation that has effected our economy by increasing our budget deficit and by sowing the seed for a split between the U.S. and it's historical allies. To me, the split between Europe and the U.S. is stunning. I don't see it being repaired soon. Secondly, it demostrated to millions of young muslims that they don't need a "state" to mount a major successful attack on the United States. If you think about it, you have to admit we were really pretty pathetic to let an attack like that happen, but I digress.
Where does this leave us with regards to nuclear detterence? I don't think there is any if they feel they were going to lose everything given the status quo. They need the U.S. to attack them since this acts as a unifying force for them. bin Laden gave up riches to live in a cave and wage jihad. Is he really concerned if this is the fate of other muslims? Does he care if Riyadh is reduced to rubble? These are just the costs of waging jihad. Does he care if Mecca is reduced to rubble? I don't know but I don't want to bet my future on it. If globaliztion will kill the religion that he knows anyway, why not risk it all?
One comment on what our goals should be. Being a scientist I have the short coming of tending to believe that science is the cure for everything. The best way to bring any authoritarian religion to it's knees is through education. Teaching math, science, and critical thinking to the youth of the islamic world is the best long term answer. 100,000 science teachers would probably have a greater positive impact in the long run than 100,000 soldiers. Any volunteers for that job? I thought not...well how about setting up a program to train a hundred thousand young people from around the islamic world to be science teachers. Surely, even the French couldn't argue against that.

Great insights! Breaking down the goals into short and long term is a great tool for understanding this issue. I'll post on this after Turkey Day and try to add some good ideas.
Thank you guys ! Happy Thanksgiving, BTW. My response to your comments:


We're pretty much on the same page. The logic of the deterrence situation is where it was circa 1949 where Soviet possession of the bomb was outweighed by the size and delivery capacity of the American arsenal. If al Qaida or the Iranians or some other Islamist actor were to use nukes the retaliation would be decisive with Islamic populations remaining untouched in Turkey, India and Indonesia but affected most everywhere else.


What is your area of research ? I added a scientist blogger to the blogroll recently, Lubos Motl.

You are correct about the radical Salafist fear of globalization which one ( now dead) al Qaida ideologist expressed quite clearly in a manifesto describing liberal democratic modernity as far more dangerous to Islam than atheistic Communism had been because of it's seductive nature. Ironically,this ideological stance is itself a modern innovation, primarily of the extreme Salafists.

The original Islamist thinker, Mohammed Abduh, had been an enthusiastic modernizer but his disciple Rashid Rida, who deeply influenced the Muslim Brotherhood via his journal al-Manar, morphed into a reactionary, obscurantist, proto-fascist whose ideas also inspired the Pan-Arab Baath. When Paul Berman claims Islamism and Arab Fascism are fruits from the same poisonous tree he's correct, regardless of what the folks at The Nation say. Sayyid Qutb finished the job in the 1950's by giving radical Salafist rejectionism of modernity a coherent intellectual structure and a political program.

I'm cautiously optimistic regarding Europe right now. The French are making noises about reconciliation and their agreeing to slash Iraq's debt was a major ( if self-interested) concession to Bush. We need to keep our eye on the ball with the French which isn't Iraq but on the ultimate Rule-Set structure for the emerging world. The French are weaker now diplomatically that the EU has enlarged and we have a window of opportunity ( I'd say about 2 years) to get European buy-in to a more realistic set of rules for world order. Events in Europe are helping wake our allies up.

On the Arab-Muslim world we have to learn to accept reality and see our enemies more from the standpoint that they see themselves. Westphalian nation-states overlay the worlds of Ummah and Tribe which are transnational and subnational. We need to make our calculations on deterrence from what *they* view as vitally important not from what secular westerners would find most important.


Great ! I'll link to yours when you have it up and running !
Enjoyed your Blog. Continue your great job. Thanks
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