ABC News highlights the two seemingly diametrically opposed lessons were drawn from US counterinsurgency experience in Anbar, in Iraq. The document despairs of winning the insurgent's "heart and mind" -- asserting that insurgents cannot be coerced -- claiming they can only killed or captured. But if one target was the physical destruction of the enemy's body the other target was the enemy ideology in and of itself.
Roadside and other bomb attacks "are not aimed at killing U.S. soldiers," ... Instead [it] ... asserts the insurgents conduct the attacks for propaganda. "They want those pictures to show up on TVs in America, and they use it to recruit on the Internet"
One security analyst I heard speak claimed that practically every insurgent operation in Iraq had a video camera unit attached, but until recently practically all Jihadi video was in Arabic. "Arabic is the language of the [Sunni Salafist] Jihad, and Jihadi videos were not even widely distributed in places like Indonesia or even Pakistan because they were in Arabic." But that has changed, he said, and now the videos were making their appearance in English, sometimes in American Internet forums, and that for the first time Jihadi propaganda was being produced in German. The connection with Germany was momentarily incomprehensible until the history of the 9/11 attackers came to mind. Et in arcadia ego sum. The overarching purpose of those videos was to demonstrate American mortality and the vulnerability of the West. To spread the word that it is fun and easy to hunt Americans. The American officer who had authored the counterinsurgency lessons learned in Anbar, Capt. Travis Patriquin, himself died in combat, but not before warning that the ideas which eventually killed him were leaping over borders into the wider world.
The virulence of this meme is suggested by the circumstance that, in order to charge it, an unending supply of snuff films was required. And the importance of the media, as a sphere of combat was illustrated by Patriquin's claim that the kinetic impact of insurgent operations themselves was itself subordinate to collecting the video of the operations. Lastly, the lethality of this meme is highlighted by the fact that those infected by it 'cannot be coerced -- only killed or captured". A movie producer, confronted by the essentials of this narrative might only be able to depict it in terms of an incurable plague whose progress can only be stopped by quarantine and extinguishment. It would need a science fiction-horror movie script to adequately describe the actual reality of virtual Jihad. The grist needed to feed this dark spirit comes from everywhere. Gaza, Chechnya, Palestine all provide their share of footage.
But coldly regarded the virtual Jihad poses a formidable challenge because it uses the very sinews of an open society as a vector to spread, in particular the media and the Internet. And while physical Jihadis can be effectively met by traditional arms -- including counterinsurgency -- the West is still casting about for a method to meet the dark spirit of the virtual Jihad with a puissant spirit of its own. Five hundred years ago, a simpler world accused to living in the diurnal cycles would have no trouble accepting the notion of a natural truggle between a Demon and some Angel with a Flaming Sword. But in a modern world that can neither conceive of Demons nor invoke the aid of Angels, what notation is left to describe that aspect of warfare which Captain Patriquin posthumously warned us against? In mathematical history, the solution to a problem often awaited the advent of a notation. The machinery to be able to process a problem. The success of military science against the physical Jihad is owed partially to the existence of vocabulary about how to think about kinetic warfare. But for fighting the virtual Jihad we have no words. No name for the threat it represents, not even a name for our enemies.