There's Too Many of Them, Boss!
The Counterterrorism Blog shows why MI-5, so effective against the IRA, was hard pressed to stop the Islamic London Tube bombers. "This is a social network graph for 7/7 bombing leader Mohammed Siddique Khan - represented by the green node ... The graph is incomplete but it gives some sense of the role the U.K. has played as a theater of al-Qaeda's operations. ... No matter how ably MI-5 disrupts plots, political decisions that permitted radical Islamists networks to flourish in Britain guaranteed that they would be overwhelmed."
Here's what the social graph looked like:
When people argue that the War on Terror "cannot be won by military, only by political means" they often exclude from consideration any political decisions which would deprive threats of their force-generation mechanisms or their means of command and control. Jihadi cells were allowed to flourish; operatives allowed to come and go; recruitment was permitted, sometimes openly in mosques because political considerations required that these activities not be impeded. Operational necessity often creates contradictions with the most cherished political institutions of a democracy that are very hard to reconcile. But that does not mean the contradictions are not real.
The "political" challenges facing the West are not only about setting up "democratic institutions" in the Middle East, or forcing Israel to accomodate Palestine. They also have to do with finding ways to shut down enemy force generation mechanisms without instituting an authoritarianism or creating a domestic tyranny. But the problem won't be solved until it is squarely recognized as needing a solution.
One of the most worrisome effects of the political decisions that the Counterterrorism Blog regrets is that it may have allowed terror groups to obtain "authority supremacy" within the Muslim communities in Britain, which occurs when a group of citizens fears and respects a shadow government more than it does the legitimately constituted and elected authorities. This danger was glimpsed in the recent appeal by Peter Clarke, the head of the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command, to the public.
"I firmly believe that there are other people who have knowledge of what lay behind the attacks in July 2005 - knowledge that they have not shared with us," he said.
"I don't only believe it, I know it for a fact.
"I also know that some of you have been actively dissuaded from speaking to us. Surely this must stop. The victims of the attacks, and those who will become victims of terrorism in the future, deserve your co-operation and support."
It has been said in Afghanistan that control over territory belongs not to the soldiers who patrol by day, but to the men who knock by night. The question for the population is always: who do you fear more? In Peter Clarke's case, he may already know the answer.