Sunday, December 31, 2006

E Pluribus Unum

Bill Roggio surveys the fortunes of al-Qaeda around the globe, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in its smaller theaters as well. And they are many. Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, North Africa/Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand. And to that list some might add Western Europe and Serbia. While each theaters of conflict is distinctly different -- and treated and perceived differently, witness Iraq and Afghanistan -- Roggio tallies them all through the prism of al-Qaeda. The unifying point of view with which to understand disparate conflicts, so different in character and setting from each other, is what parties are on which side: in other words, according to us versus them. With "them" being al-Qaeda. David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency strategist at the Pentagon recently interviewed by George Packer, attempted to identify the unifying thread running through the different conflicts in another way. On the one hand every battlefield and every locality within a given battlefield is different.“Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district.” But on the other hand every Jihadi battlefield is in some respects the same. The reason the individual Jihads cannot be treated separately, he reasoned, "is globalization".

Al-Qaeda was above all a popularizer of ideas. It was a creature of a the global consciousness, a presence on every scene. If al-Qaeda were a demon then the thing it sought to possess was the front page. But what exactly was it that Bin Laden was selling, Kilcullen asked himself: was it Islam? It was more eclectic than that.

Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden’s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. “I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?” he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that "this wasn’t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy."

Just as al-Qaeda was present in the local politics of a tribe in Waziristan, so too did it haunt Washington, DC.

Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush’s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda’s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. "If bin Laden didn’t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave," Kilcullen said.

But what was the connection between the global themes of Osama Bin Laden and the particulars of every place and clime? What held joined al-Qaeda's global vision and the local grievances together, Kilcullen reasoned, was that the former provided a rationale for the latter. The young and discontented all wanted to be part of a rebellion that would change the world. Bin Laden would provide the justification for universal adolescence to rise in rebellion against the global adulthood.

"After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate. ... People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks." He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates. ...

On his bookshelves, alongside monographs by social scientists such as Max Gluckman and E. E. Evans-Pritchard, is a knife that he took from a militiaman he had just ambushed in East Timor. “If I were a Muslim, I’d probably be a jihadist,” Kilcullen said as we sat in his office. “The thing that drives these guys—a sense of adventure, wanting to be part of the moment, wanting to be in the big movement of history that’s happening now—that’s the same thing that drives me, you know?”

Following this train of the thought led to the conclusion that the counter to al-Qaeda would be to meet it's grievances locally but deny it's pretensions to universality. As with the demons cast out in the Bible, the exorcist's first step was to put it in its proper place; it was only proper to acknowledge the demon was a shadow of malice, but a shadow withal. The exorcist never came before Beelzebub as an equal, but as the waking world against a dream of evil; invoking the sunlight to dispel illusion. In Kilcullen's view, America's first mistake was to accord the Jihad any importance.

By speaking of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Taliban, the Iranian government, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda in terms of one big war, Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden’s job much easier. “You don’t play to the enemy’s global information strategy of making it all one fight,” Kilcullen said. He pointedly avoided describing this as the Administration’s approach. “You say, ‘Actually, there are sixty different groups in sixty different countries who all have different objectives. Let’s not talk about bin Laden’s objectives—let’s talk about your objectives. How do we solve that problem?’ ” In other words, the global ambitions of the enemy don’t automatically demand a monolithic response. ...

Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad.

And there was certainly other anecdotal evidence to support the theory of "disaggregation". Western observers may have failed to understand that the Islamic Courts Union was making itself very unpopular in Somalia because it banned women from public in a country where women were the chief breadwinners. Others noted how the Islamic prohibition on the traditional narcotic of khat, much more than any political reason a Western academic could understand, condemned the imams in the sight of the populace. Diplomats may understand radical Islamism in terms of geopolitics, but the tribesman may weigh it in the scales of his livelihood.  It is easy to say "your task is to become the world expert on your district,"  but how does America, the epitome of the modern state with huge bureaucracies and a gigantic military establishment, actually do this? How does it re-engineer itself to fight wars locally instead of with big battalions and aid programs. The answer, apparently, is only with great difficulty. George Packer's article continues.

Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act. In half a dozen critical regions, Crumpton has organized meetings among American diplomats, intelligence officials, and combat commanders, so that information about cross-border terrorist threats is shared.

But in one area the Coalition had yet to formulate an effective counter. The Jihad held local discontents together with a cement of information operations supplemented by intimidation and terrorism. Armed propaganda. Kilcullen described how the Taliban sent "night letters" to Afghan farmers, exhorting them to plant the opium poppy -- the better to detach them from the legal economy -- and threatening dire consequences should they refuse. " This is a classic old Bolshevik tactic from the early cold war, by the way. They are specifically trying to send the message: 'The government can neither help you nor hurt us. We can hurt you, or protect you—the choice is yours.'" Against such terrorism, only the gun will prevail. "In a counterinsurgency, the gratitude effect will last until the sun goes down and the insurgents show up and say, ‘You’re on our side, aren’t you? Otherwise, we’re going to kill you.’ If one side is willing to apply lethal force to bring the population to its side and the other side isn’t, ultimately you’re going to find yourself losing." But using force creates other information problems, chiefly with the media. The media and the Internet was being effectively used by the Global Jihad to disseminate atrocity stories to immobilize the coalition and to glorify its acts of violence to spur recruitment and to raise money. Against these information operations the Coalition could only set a broken reed.

After Kilcullen returned from Afghanistan last month, he stayed up late one Saturday night (“because I have no social life”) and calculated how many sources of information existed for a Vietnamese villager in 1966 and for an Afghan villager in 2006. He concluded that the former had ten, almost half under government control, such as Saigon radio and local officials; the latter has twenty-five (counting the Internet as only one), of which just five are controlled by the government. Most of the rest—including e-mail, satellite phone, and text messaging—are independent but more easily exploited by insurgents than by the Afghan government. And it is on the level of influencing perceptions that these wars will be won or lost. “The international information environment is critical to the success of America’s mission,” Kilcullen said.

In the information war, America and its allies are barely competing. America’s information operations, far from being the primary strategy, simply support military actions, and often badly: a Pentagon spokesman announces a battle victory, but no one in the area of the battlefield hears him (or would believe him anyway). Just as the Indonesians failed in East Timor, in spite of using locally successful tactics, Kilcullen said, “We’ve done a similar thing in Iraq—we’ve arguably done O.K. on the ground in some places, but we’re totally losing the domestic information battle. In Afghanistan, it still could go either way. ... “It’s now fundamentally an information fight,” he said. “The enemy gets that, and we don’t yet get that, and I think that’s why we’re losing.”

If the Kilcullen's description of winning the airpower but losing the airwaves sounds familiar, it should. This was exactly the position the Israelis found themselves in vis a vis Hezbollah in the 2006 war in Lebanon, a subject discussed in Blogosphere at War. But many of the current efforts to fight the information war consist of initiatives like Karen Hughes' Public Diplomacy project, which attempt to 'make public officials more available to the press'. While that is certainly useful, it does nothing to answer the question of how to fight the information battle against the Jihad locally. It does nothing to disrupt what Kilcullen called that "ladder of extremism", the pathway of indoctrination which exists beyond the reach of Public Diplomacy, beyond the reach of a media strategy and only within the grasp of an information strategy

When I asked him to outline a counter-propaganda strategy, he [Kilcullen] described three basic methods. “We’ve got to create resistance to their message,” he said. “We’ve got to co-opt or assist people who have a counter-message. And we might need to consider creating or supporting the creation of rival organizations.” Bruce Hoffman told me that jihadists have posted five thousand Web sites that react quickly and imaginatively to events. In 2004, he said, a jihadist rap video called “Dirty Kuffar” became widely popular with young Muslims in Britain: “It’s like Ali G wearing a balaclava and having a pistol in one hand and a Koran in the other.” Hoffman believes that America must help foreign governments and civil-society groups flood the Internet with persuasively youthful Web sites presenting anti-jihadist messages—but not necessarily pro-American ones, and without leaving American fingerprints.

Kilcullen argues that Western governments should establish competing “trusted networks” in Muslim countries: friendly mosques, professional associations, and labor unions. (A favorite Kilcullen example from the Cold War is left-wing anti-Communist trade unions, which gave the working class in Western Europe an outlet for its grievances without driving it into the arms of the Soviet Union.) The U.S. should also support traditional authority figures—community leaders, father figures, moderate imams—in countries where the destabilizing transition to modernity has inspired Islamist violence. “You’ve got to be quiet about it,” he cautioned. “You don’t go in there like a missionary.” The key is providing a social context for individuals to choose ways other than jihad.

If the idea of rousing the private citizens to flood the Internet with persuasively youthful Web sites presenting anti-jihadist messages—but not necessarily pro-American ones, and without leaving American fingerprints sounds familiar, it should, because this is similar to what the blogosphere does. Maybe not well enough to counter the Jihad, but it points the way. And although the government may dream of flooding the Internet with sites willing to take the Jihad on, it is the Man with the Day Job who has so far actually delivered. But just as it was the private sector, not the government which first mounted effective resistance to Jihadi information warfare, it may yet be the private sector, not "Western governments" that will eventually "establish competing 'trusted networks' in Muslim countries". Private organizers -- activists -- assisted by the blogosphere may provide a way of coming to grips with the Jihad on local issues and oppose them in the field of ideas on a woldwide basis. It is the Global Everyman, not just the government, which must be mobilized to fight the Global Guerrila. The government has a role too; it is the combination of kinetic warfare against terrorist, coupled with across the board intellectual resistance to extremism, and grassroots organizing on a wide front against the oppressive forms of the Jihad, which will ultimately kill al-Qaeda.

Maybe the answer was right under our nose. The key to defeating the Global Jihad may lie in the West remembering the levee en masse, that part of its history now forgotten, which consisted of raising a nation in arms, because the nation consisted of everyone, not in weaponry but this time in ideas. It may consist in relearning that the first role of government is not to do things for its citizens, but rather to awaken them; reawaken them to the idea that free men, not some throwback to the 8th century,  are the bearers of the true revolution. The West needs to remember before it can believe; and it needs to believe before it can survive. Then it can be, if not again the tide of the Idea With a Sword, at least that of a Sword With an Idea.


Blogger Wu Wei said...

There is no common link among the Islamists groups other than some sort of Islamic religion. The Shiite / Iranian groups don't even call themselves Al Qaeda, which is Sunni. Al Qaeda was always an umbrella group which had nothing in common besides taking bin Laden's money, or just the "Al Qaeda" name.

Saddam's Baathist insurgents aren't even religous, but they call themselves Al Qaeda in Iraq, or use people by that name in order to fight the US & Shiites. There are other countries too which mostly are fighting local battles. Bin Laden himself wants to knock the Saudi government out of power, people who he think wronged him. Zarqawi seemed more psycho than religious.

12/31/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

This guy? This guy is our chief strategist in some capacity? Because... he thinks... what - there's some sort of muddley not-too-military (i.e. killing)- oriented strategy of baksheesh and political manipulation that can be accomplished in the glare of the global media - who by the way feel only sympathy and fear towards our enemies?

All I can say to this is: WTF.

The locals will always out-manipulate you. TE Lawrence STARTED an insurgency, he did not end one, and he did it by promising glory and delivering guns and an occasional victory to a vicious and oblivious people. Why is he constantly invoked by some people, except for the confirmation of the obvious that he can provide to minds otherwise disoriented by Orientalism accusations? Good as far as it goes, but - frankly - trivial. There is nothing behind the phenomenon, as Goethe might say. Here is the answer: you kill them. When a head pops up above the rabble high enough to see it, and that head isn't nice, you blow that head off.

We have tried the gentle approach; indeed, with infintessimal exceptions, all our problems issue from this very demeanor. It is endlessly repeated: this is a problem not resolvable by military force (sometimes added, "alone"). Oh really? Did I miss the part where we tried that? I don't remember trying the military force alone thing. In fact, I don't remember trying the "shock and awe" approach that Rumsfeld was supposedly so hopelessly addicted to. It is uncanny the degree to which the global media - that is, a few large corporations and the stringers they often hire - generates discourse of the quality of a rumor-and-innuendo infested cocktail party circuit. This is, of course, no small wonder.

This is a military problem. This is a problem where you find the people and you kill them, including villages - whatever it takes to let the impression sink in that there is nothing but pain and torture if you choose this path. The other side cannot be accomodated, has such a pathetically thin, solipsistsic and degenerated conception of reality that it cannot be placated by what it covets or by overwhelming force. It is like dealing with spoiled children, actually - cf. for example The Closed Circle, wherein the author generously attempts to quell that very concluison explicitly while proving it a thousand ways in his expoisition.

With such an obvious character, the problem can only be that, like the glaring and veangeful socialite crowd, the media inhibits action thiswise, having established an alternative, cowardly norm. If you haven't watched the news long enough or with enough attention to see every reasonable, placating, supplicant, snivelling, debasing overture and effort be thrown back impudently in your face - how like a spoiled 12 year old girl! - then you are a fucking moron and should not be involved in this question any longer.

12/31/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wu Wei - what are you talking about? You are a silly person.

12/31/2006 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

Wow, talk about two folk who slip right past the point of a post and go ripping into ideological bunny trails!

w, good catch!. For both you and Kilcullen! And scrary, too, because the dem/libs seem to prove out the theory without even breaking a sweat!


12/31/2006 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Habu1 said...

yeah, ideology didn't have much to do with Lenin,Stalin,Mao,Washington,Jefferson,Madison,Jay...
I'm not sure it's a brilliant revelation that young tigers get sucked in by their buddies etc...i mean the old saw about old men starting wars and young men fighting them is golden.
interview one of our troops in iraq.."we're here to help them have a better way of life, more freedom etc" ....never heard one say "well my budddy joined so i did too and we like to kill'
now i realize they are prepared for the media questions but leaving ideology out of the mix doesn't fit the entire history of man and war.

12/31/2006 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Happy New Year!

12/31/2006 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Karensky said...

Wretchard by Jove I thinnk you've got it. It is late, I must read this again. It makes sense.
Happy New Year, the calander does work after all.

12/31/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...

Interesting link to Kilcullen, W.

I'm not sure where I stand on it.

Perhaps it was the style of the article; it had a trade-mag feel about it - (Megacorp's Smith said X ... Globalcorp's Jones said not X).

Perhaps it was the Gee whizz style for ideas that have been discussed on your eminent blog many times.

Most likely, though, it's my inate prejudice against people with social science degrees.

Is it only now that the US military has been confronted with the revelation that they are fighting, at least in part, an information war? I doubt it. However, I must agree that the US actions in the information war have been pathetically weak.

"After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam',I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate. ... People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks."

I think the deeper thing he's looking for is culture.

As for getting pulled in by a social network, I think he has cause and effect mixed up here: people form social networks because they have common ideas, ideals, ideology.

So is Islam off the hook, then? I don't think so. When the IRA was going about its murderous business in Northern Ireland, its actions were denounced daily by the local press and the Catholic Church. When, in 1998 a referendum was held in Southern Ireland to remove the South's claim to the North, 94% voted to drop the claim. I don't see similar events as likely in the ME. The milieu matters.

As you say, Ideas matter.

So our objective includes breaking the culture. Here's a small contribution.


12/31/2006 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I still think one tactic we must use is to make being a jihadist "not cool". We have to laugh at their pretensions, and snort at their presumption. We can take seriously the prevention of another accidental success like 9/11, but we must never, ever, take seriously Mohammad Atta himself. Nor the father of Mohammad Atta nor the imam who indoctrinated him. They should all be treated like loons and lunatics and made to feel even more inferior than they are, at least in the eyes of those who they seek to persuade to follow them.

12/31/2006 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

If you come up with a new 'Last Frontier' that might help bleed the enemies troop strength. Australia comes to mind as does the US. There would be some resistance from the imams though. As far as the media thing, when you have your own stabbing you in the back, you're in bad shape.

1/01/2007 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger putnam said...

I really don't think a levee en masse of bloggers or internet surfers is going to change muslim opinion. Just look at how events in the this country are percieved so completely differenty by different political persuasions.

To me the first step is getting the left to admit there is a problem in the ME, and to get them to stop trying to shout it down with cries global warming etc.

Until we can get the left on board in this struggle I don't think any progress is possible. This is perhaps where the levee en masse might have some use.

When Clooney, Bono and Damon start promoting a series of concerts like "live freedom" we will know that the west is ready to deal with this problem. Until then we are just wasting American soldiers' lives in Afganistan and Iraq.

1/01/2007 04:16:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

As I said above, all the Islamist groups, obviously, have some sort of Islamist ideology. But they aren't all Al Qaeda, and there isn't one global Islamist conspiracy which is trying to take over the world. Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization, one which says that Shiites are infidels who should be wiped off the face of the earth. Al Qaeda has killed many more Shiite Muslimis than foreign troops in Iraq. So the Iranian-sponsored terrorists aren't part of Al Qaeda; this includes the Shiite groups like Hizbollah, etc. Saddam's government was non-religious and one of few in the middle east which didn't have Muslim Sharia law.

I think most people fight wars either for self-defense or conquest. Many Americans have said we should fight in the Middle East for self defense, in order to prevent another 9/11. The Nazi party was the "National Socialist German Worker's Party", but I don't think Hitler woke up every morning and said "What can I do today to make the world more socialist?"

Some of the rank & file Islamists are fighting to make the whole world Islamic, but I am skeptical about their leaders. Very often the leaders believe in nothing besides power.

1/01/2007 04:38:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Sounds like some Republicans in Congress are ready to cut and run. They and President Bush first betrayed the troops by losing the information war, letting Cindy Sheehan and the Democrats control the war debate, and now instead of fighting back, the Republican politicians seem ready to just walk away from the Iraq war. (That way they can focus their energies on helping the Democrats pass social security tax increases and amnesty for illegal aliens.)

Sen. John McCain, leading a blue-ribbon congressional delegation to Baghdad before Christmas, collected evidence that a "surge" of more U.S. troops is needed in Iraq. But not all his colleagues who accompanied him were convinced. What's more, he will find himself among a dwindling minority inside the Senate Republican caucus when Congress reconvenes this week.

President Bush and McCain, the front-runner for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, will have trouble finding support from more than 12 of the 49 Republican senators when pressing for a surge of 30,000 troops. "It's Alice in Wonderland," Sen. Chuck Hagel, second-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told me in describing the proposal. "I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly."

What to do about Iraq poses not only a national policy crisis but profound political problems for the Republican Party. Disenchantment with George W. Bush within the GOP runs deep. Republican leaders around the country, anticipating that the 2006 election disaster would prompt an orderly disengagement from Iraq, are shocked that the president now appears ready to add troops.


1/01/2007 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger Kingston53 said...

NahnCee is right but it must go much further than just ridicule. Use the same tactics used against South Africa to turn the world against aparthied. After all, Islam is oppressive and intolerant to religious minorities and women among others. It is violent and bloody. This should be the mantra to turns the world against them.

1/01/2007 05:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Putnam said, "When Clooney, Bono and Damon start promoting a series of concerts like 'live freedom' we will know that the west is ready to deal with this problem."

Such concerts would be directed against the NSA and the Patriot Act until January 20, 2009 when the scales of Bush Derangement Syndrome fall away from millions of lefty eyes.

1/01/2007 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger moderationist said...

Every conflict is muslim genocide of non muslims. How long can the media pretend islamist genocide of black non-muslims in Africa doesn't exist?

1/01/2007 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


To a certain extent this is happening in certain places. Our forces are in locales becoming the local experts.

The postings about our forces working the jungles of Basilan and Jolo etc are that in action.

However, there is nothing wrong at identifying the situation with Bin Laden. Once Bin Laden brought down the towers (actually it probably really happened with the East African Embasssy bombings) he became the Global Jihad Guy.

Funny enough the idea of qat (khat) pushing the Somalis over the edge against the Islamists is interesting. However, the more serious part of it was curtailing the Somalis ability to survive. Somali energy (my guess) is primarily spent on daily subsistence, there is no surplus energy.

Pakistan is often characterized as an impoverished nation, but ever take a close look at those photos of the raging protests. How many of those people look malnourished?

They are adequately fed & bored. I recall hearing when the English first devised the game of tennis many of the feudal lords banned the game as it was waste of energy the people could be spending on archery practice and preparing for the next battle/war. So, we have lands where the people have surplus energy and the only acceptable way to burn that energy off is to convert others.

Tennis anyone?

1/01/2007 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Joshua Chamberlain said...

Wretchard, I know you love these "net war" and "4th generational war" and this other information war stuff, based on your recent monograph. But you've got to keep in mind that the New Yorker, Packer and Kilcullen are trying to sell a minimalist view of the GWOT that is also the view of the regime elite in the Western world. I keep thinking of Angelo Codevilla in his Preface to "War" (2d.): "Reference to ancient experience serves today's readers, as they did yesterday's, by disabusing them of the temptation to regard their problems as unprecedented and hence as excuses for nonsense."

1/01/2007 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Thanks for the Packer article! I have read it twice. It resonates with my own growing disquiet about our strategy, our failure in communications, why we cannot understand the enemy and work on co-opting them.

It rankles that many of the reformers think any revision will have to wait for a new Administration - that for now we have Churchillian prose without the 18 pages of analysis Churchill did before he got to the "uplifting junk". And our military strategy can be boiled down on the Homefront to extolling "Our Heroes" - bravely sallying forth into a population they don't understand and can't communicate with in multi-million dollar uparmored vehicles "more resistant" to IEDs.

Buried in Packer's essay was another matter - that much of the American human sciences community that could help our military understand the enemy and the native populations contemplating allying or not with the foe - are determined NOT to cooperate or help America's Armed Forces in any way. They were critical to formulating successful WWII and Cold War strategy, but since Vietnam see assisting as stigmatizing.
And reciprocated by ideologues in the present Administration determined not to meet with them and discuss funding. (Might affect tax cuts or the need for 80,000 tax-free reenlistment bonuses to keep the volunteer military manned)

Wretchard, hope you one day can track down Kilcullen and have lunch. Sounds like you have a very interesting fellow countryman and one no doubt who would be fascinated with your Philippines experiences.

1/01/2007 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

This story about the victory in Somalia shows that while the anti-Islamic forces definitely need to show they are willing to use force, whoever has the support of the local population wins.

In this case the "force" was a massive artillery attack. Even before that happened, the local population turned against the Islamists. Many Islamists, who were also local clan members, switched sides, taking off their Islamist uniforms. Elders told the Islamists they weren't wanted. Once the attack started, the local clans actually attacked the Islamists, rifle to rifle combat, and drove them out of town.

In the long run it takes both carrot and stick, punishment and reward to win a battle against insurgents.

In the face of an intense artillery barrage by Ethiopian-backed forces and thousands of well-equipped troops heading their way, the Islamists scattered, with some of their militia shedding their uniforms and melting back into the population while others headed south toward a thickly forested area along the Kenya border.

I can’t tell you how happy people were that they [Islamists] disappeared,” Adam Ragay, a businessman in Kismayo, said today...

It took the transitional government, with the help of the Ethiopian military, one of the most powerful in Africa, all of one week to rout the Islamists...

As fighting began to flare up on Sunday around Kismayo, elders within the city demanded that the Islamists go.

Muhammad Arab, a leader of the Ogaden sub-clan, said that 36 elders of various clans and sub-clans met over the weekend with Islamist leaders and tried to persuade them that resistance against the huge Ethiopian-backed force heading toward them was futile...

The fighting started about 5 p.m., with the Ethiopian-backed forces unleashing an artillery barrage against Islamist troops dug in near Jilib, a town about 30 miles north of Kismayo. As the shells began to rain down, residents said that clan militias within Kismayo turned on the Islamists.

That set off running gun battles across the city, with several people reportedly killed...

Local support for the Islamists in Kismayo is obviously evaporating, just as it did last week in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, when clan elders decided that the Islamists were a losing cause and pulled their troops and weapons out of the movement.

That led to the city falling much faster than anyone expected into the hands of Somalia’s transitional government, which has used Ethiopian troops and airpower to reclaim much of the country. Clan elders are the pillars of Somali society, and many of the Islamist fighters in Mogadishu were clan militiamen who were lent to the movement.


1/01/2007 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

wu wu
More importantly it shows that the local populations will support the victors, if given the opportunity.

As those same populations welcomed the Mohammedans, when the Warlords left. Now that the Warlords return with Ethiopian tanks, the populaton swings in line to support them.

It is the Strong Horse the people support.

1/01/2007 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“If I were a Muslim, I’d probably be a jihadist,” Kilcullen said as we sat in his office.

Mr Kilcullen makes a good point (not). And if I was a jihadist infidel, I'd saw his head off just for being such a stupid infidel.

Brigitte Gabriel on Lebanon and Jihadi propaganda

1/01/2007 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger James Becker said...

Hi Wretchard,

Jack Kelly at IrishPennents talked about this article a while back.

I get the strong feeling that both he and you give it way too much weight.

I simply ask this question: How could a journalist spill so many words about terrorism without mentioning Iran even once? Lack of space?

Since Iran is never mentioned, it seems that he is trying to say that with the proper propoganda and warfare methods, we can win the war on terror even while Iran is funding it with $Billions.

Its a nice thought, but its a little hard to believe. The funding from Iran will continue the war almost indefinitely. We may be able to blunt its effectiveness a little more, but it will never be won.

That begs the other question: what if Iran's funding stopped? Would any of this even matter? Would Hezbolah propoganda tactics matter one wit without any money to build the army to fight the war? I bet these anti-terrorist thought processes would make a great thesis at some think tank deep in the pentagon (in the absence of Iranian involvement), but no one else would care about them one bit.


1/01/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James Becker wrote, "That begs the other question: what if Iran's funding stopped? Would any of this even matter?"

Not one whit, which is why we like to see Rufusmeister post his alternative energy links.

1/01/2007 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first battle the US lost in this war happened when the European press started treating jihadists as people with genuine grievances rather than as people with mental problems, or, as someone said above, 'uncool', and worthy of mockery. This helped validate the movement, and set up a moral equivalence between 'us' and 'them'. This may be in part because Europe has a longer history of dealing with terrorism, I don't know.

1/01/2007 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Father to Son, Last Words to Live By

1/01/2007 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/01/2007 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger lewy14 said...

There is an interesting corollary to "disaggregation", which is that it implies something that many have been saying all along: that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is in fact not central to the global jihad.

I think this is an interesting issue in that it threatens the holy cows of two different camps: the GWoT folks who on the one hand insist we are fighting an ideology of global jihad, but deny that forcing the Israelis to make concessions will solve anything in Afghanistan or Thailand or the Philippines or Chechnya.

Then there are the folks who talk the same "varied conflicts, local grievances, social determinism" talk as Kilcullen but then in the next breath assert that forcing Israel to concede is "central" to the solution.

I would be interested to see how Kilcullen deals with the question.

I think the question is more subtle than how I'm presenting it but it does provide a kind of rhetorical trap to see how sincere or thoughtful someone is in their convictions.

1/01/2007 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Thanks for the feedback, especially the argument that it is part of the "minimalist" package to tone down the war. It's certainly not implausible that someone might want to sell a minimalist package, but I think the general principle, which is that each insurgency is different, and that therefore some will require a lot of force and others less is a reasonable argument. Also, not every conflict with radical Islamists will be a counterinsurgency. Sometimes it will be outright conventional. So as long as the the variable package is not misrepresented or sold as the "always be minimalist" package that would seem fair, though the danger of misrepentation is always present.

I am reliably informed that Kilcullen's 28 Articles of Counterinsurgency" is now an
appendix in the Marine Corps' Small Unit Leader's
Guide to Counterinsurgency". That doesn't mean its gold, only that it seems useful to enough people to be worth a try. And I suppose that's the most reasonable judgment.

1/01/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Ever notice that the people most likely to join the Islamo-nutballs are socially and economically "have nots"?

Seems like the last time I looked, Islamic "grunts" are most easily recruited from the poor nations of "have nots".

Islam, with it's suspicion of anything newer than 900AD, hasn't kept up with the West.

1/01/2007 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The proof is in the pudding:

Ethiopia provided a context for individuals to choose ways other than jihad.

1/01/2007 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Atta's dad is a prominent lawyer, Atta was highly intelligent as well as very well educated.

Bin Laden's dad was the richest self-made man in the Middle East.

Zawahiri came from two exceptionally prominent families in Egypt. Z was a doctor before becoming a full time terrorist leader.
...the list goes on.

1/01/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We did reasonably well against the Soviet Union’s propaganda machine, but are performing horribly against the output of the Islamists. Of course, as was mentioned in the post, the methods of communication have expanded tremendously. One additional difference now is the American MSM and it is two fold. They carry the Islamists’ messages with little background provided for the general public to understand it in context. Secondly, they denigrate the government’s attempt to counter the Islamists’ message. Just remember when the US hired a company to put out the US side in Iraqi the media, it was attacked harshly. That was not the standard in my youth. The useful idiots in the media never seem to remember that, as was done in the Iranian revolution of 1979 and other revolutions, they just may find themselves to be the first victims of the firing squads.

1/01/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...


Is Islam draining the intellectual pool by strapping explosives on Doctors and Lawyers?

1/01/2007 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The doctors and lawyers give the orders, the Jean Pool is diminished by the suicide vests.

1/01/2007 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Atta the Exceptional.

1/01/2007 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...although Bin Laden and Z have both put their lives on the line too.

1/01/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Goyo said...

Hmm…Interesting post because just a couple days ago I was reflecting on how attitudes toward Islam have changed in the past few years and I don't think to the advantage of jihadis. The effect of the information war, both theirs and ours, on the Moslem part of the world is harder to discern because it's hard to distinguish between the real bandwagon and the appearance of a bandwagon the jihadis are trying to create.

Just a little outside of the box thinking for a moment here, One of the mistakes I think we've made in our thinking about the Islamists is to not take their religious convictions seriously enough. Maybe Al Queda really is a missionary movement albeit one in which violence is a legitimate means of winning conversion. If so, it might be helpful if we would consult some of our own missionaries to gain some insight into the jihadis thinking. Maybe Christian missionaries have a better take on the jihadis mindset than sociologist, military strategists, computer programers or politicians. Maybe some lawyer or engineer or doctor who moves his wife and kids from America to some crappy little mostly moslem village in the southern Bilibeans in hopes of converting people to Christianity can give us a better insight into jihadi thinking than some guy living in Alexandria, Virginia.

Greg Marquez

1/01/2007 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Griswel said...

Terrorists don't succeed when they kill innocent people, they succeed when they change policy by killing innocent people.

Our reaction to terror is the key to their success.

1/02/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Red A said...

I have some real problems with the article, which make me suspect the contents a bit.

Hired in 2004, and since Rummy didn't cut some expensive toys it all went downhill???? Uh, Rummy cut a lot of the toys and the kind of troops he is pushing are what you do need for counterinsurgency.

BTW, the reason the East Timorese suceeded was regime change in Indonesia, not just international pressure.

In any case, it is an interesting article, but it seems to me the enemy has found the way to fight the Americans in the information war by simply leveraging our own media and their biases.

Seriously, about Abu Ghraib - the army was already investigating when the story "broke" and since our accused have rights, how could the Army have released the story to the media in advance like the "radical" officer suggested? In fact, the story was mainly about the photos, and those were leaked by the accused's lawyers when they decided they needed to...the army couldn't do that without violating people's rights.

And how are we going to win the information war in Iraq with the media beating the defeat drum so loudly that we lose the national will? Oh, I suspect the answer will be to elect who the media likes and then the coverage will be slightly better? Is that the answer?

Sorry - had to vent.

1/03/2007 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger Red A said...

Another commenter mentioned the US program to plant good stories in the Iraqi media - exactly what you're supposed to do to win the war, but the media and the left cried in horror.

The New Yorker article seemed to be a bunch of platitudes and theories but lacking in CONCRETE examples and how they could actually be implemented.

I think the main problem will be national will, not the actually fighting, tactics, or learning about the locals - those take time, but we have improved. It won't matter how good you are at counter-insurgency if you only have a 5 year national patience.

1/03/2007 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> And how are we going to win the information war in Iraq with the media beating the defeat drum so loudly that we lose the national will?

The way it was always done before President Bush: the President leads the country. He tells us who the enemy is, why we are fighting them, and how we will win. He builds support in Congress.

Unfortunately, President Bush refuses to do any of that.

1/03/2007 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> It won't matter how good you are at counter-insurgency if you only have a 5 year national patience.

People still support the war in Afghanistan, and we've been over there longer than Iraq.

1/03/2007 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger Red A said...

Wu Wei,

While President Bush could have done a better job of using the pulpit, I think the media still wins hands down.

Regarding Afghanistan, if we did not have Iraq, then the media would simply beat the defeat drum there instead.

1/03/2007 05:42:00 PM  

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