Sunday, November 30, 2008

Interesting Reminder From Anne Applebaum

From her commentary "Forgotten Lessons of 9/11" in the Washington Post:
...In the coming days, more will surely be learned about the gunmen, some of whom have been captured by the Indian police. Their weapons will be traced, their motives will become clearer, their methods better understood. Their leaders will acquire names, personalities. Still, it is worth underlining, emphasizing and remembering this initial moment of total ignorance: If nothing else, it's a reminder of some things we learned on Sept. 11, 2001.

At that time, al-Qaeda was widely described as something new: Unlike terrorist groups of the past, many noted, it operated not as a single, secretive organization but more like a global franchise. Organizations and individuals with various agendas could go to al-Qaeda for weapons and training. Afterward, they could, in effect, set up their own local branches, whose goals and methods might reflect the original, Saudi-inspired al-Qaeda ideology -- or might not. Some predicted that al-Qaeda would even inspire copycat movements, much as McDonald's inspired Burger King. Groups with no connection to Osama bin Laden -- and no interest in being connected to him -- might imitate some of his methods and tactics. By definition, the members of such groups would be civilians, sometimes living ordinary lives. They would not be combatants in the ordinary sense of the word. They would not wear uniforms, follow rules or organize themselves into anything resembling a traditional army. And they could not, therefore, be fought only with traditional military methods.

Too often over the past seven years, it has been easy to forget this initial analysis....

Perhaps the Mumbai gunmen will, like some of those in the Afghan Taliban, also turn out to be members of a homegrown, locally based, ad hoc organization with its own eccentric goals and training methods. Or perhaps they will turn out to belong to a definite group with a clear ideology, which would, of course, be easier all around. Surely the point, though, is that we should be well-prepared to deal with either -- and wary of mistaking one for the other....
No mention whatsoever of Islam or of Muslims, of course. No mention of a basic unifying ideology as motivation for Islamic terrorists.

Near the top of page 7 of comments to the article is the following:
dryrunfarm1 wrote:

There seems to be consensus, at least, that the attackers were Muslim.

Now, it is certainly the case that not all terrorists are Muslim. It does seem to be true, however, that only Muslim terrorists operate generally. That is, Basque terrorists aren't of any particular concern to India, and Kurdish terrorists aren't of any concern to Spain, but Muslim terrorists are of concern to all, except Muslim terrorists.

This, we have learned, at least, from 9-11.

In round terms, then, we know who the enemy are: fundamentalist Muslims, which is to say, any Muslim who is not predisposed to read the Koran allegorically.

Make no mistake, taken at its simple meaning, Islam is a violent, bloody, war-mongering religion. This is not to say that all Muslims subscribe to the words of the Koran without nuance, but it is inevitable that some among the devout, seeking their religion in its "purest" form, will read the Koran literally. These are the people who become fundamentalist, and they are the fundamentalists who become terrorists. Add to these the pan-Islamists - those who think of world nations in Islamic/non-Islamic terms - who become terrorists for essentially nationalistic motives, and we have defined the majority of the universe of our enemies.

There is no simple solution, but there is a complicated and controversial one: goad fundamentalist and nationalist Muslims into combat against regular armed forces. For those of you who never thought of it, this is precisely what the Iraq war accomplished: if al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq before the war, the idea of infidel Americans getting a toehold in the heart of Islamic Arabia was guaranteed to bring them there. Maybe this was part of Pres. Bush's plan, and maybe it wasn't, but in either case, this is what happened - and al Qaeda ended up committing untold resources, human, economic and material, to stopping US success in its own back yard. By all accounts, the struggle has cost al Qaeda dearly by all measures.

By all means, the US should do it again - perhaps, this time, in Somalia, on the pretext of combating piracy. The land is fertile for the purpose. It has no, established government to offend (we might offer to help create one), it offers almost unlimited opportunities for the terrorists to group and train, and it is already a haven for just such terrorists as we need to encounter and crush - a haven al Qaeda will surely want to defend, both as a haven, and as a fundamentalist-leaning Islamic nation already.

We will not win such a war, at least not a conventional victory. As long as there is a Koran, and there are Muslims who may incline to read it literally, there will be Muslim terrorists for us to fight. We can, however, make sustaining the hostilities against us very costly for the terrorists, and we can do much to keep their focus on regular troops trained to combat them, rather than leave the door open for terrorist attacks on civilian populations.

We should do this, and we should do it, now.
11/29/2008 9:01:36 AM
I haven't read all the comments to Applebaum's commentary. But most comments I've read there are not nearly as cogent and reasoned as that of Dry Run Farm 1. In other words, a sort of microcosm of the task we face as a civilization - naming the enemy and having a plan to defeat that enemy. In that respect, the West is still at the 9/10 stage.

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