Counter-Terrorism Beyond Platitudes | commentary

“Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have embraced a shallow, platitudinous approach to counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency warfare.”

Max Boot effectively explains the flawed analogy (resulting from a lack of historical perspective) behind the simplistic approach to counter-terrorism espoused by Trump, Cruz, and many Americans. Their understanding of war is based on the crushing defeats inflicted on the Axis powers during WWII.

But as Boot points out, “The situation with the War on Terror today is very different. We are fighting insurgencies, not nation-states, even if some of the insurgents (the Taliban before 9/11, ISIS today) have taken on many of the attributes of nation-states. This is an unconventional conflict in which our enemies seldom wear uniforms or mass in the open. They prefer to hide among a civilian population and to strike with stealth and surprise, usually against civilian, not military, targets. As I argued in my book Invisible Armies, this is an ancient form of warfare that requires a different response from conventional conflicts. Using maximal force against terrorists and guerrillas can backfire, more often than not, by killing innocent civilians and thereby driving their friends and relatives into the insurgent camp.”

Read the entire article here: Counter-Terrorism Beyond Platitudes | commentary

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The ‘war on terror’ isn’t working – LA Times

Andrew Bacevich’s article at the Los Angeles Times is brief but smart. In contrast to the dominant voices calling for more bombing and even the use of torture, he proposes something different. His critique is historically informed and echoes what many scholars, including myself, have been advocating for a long time.

“What Americans refer to as terrorism is more accurately this: a violent outgrowth of chronic political dysfunction and economic underdevelopment affecting large parts of the Islamic world, exacerbated by deep-seated  sectarian divisions and the pernicious legacy of European colonialism and further complicated by the presence of Israel, all together finding expression in antipathy toward the West and especially the United States. For the “war on terror” to succeed, it will have to remedy the conditions giving rise to that antipathy in the first place.” Exactly!

Read the entire article here: The ‘war on terror’ isn’t working – LA Times

Abusing History: “Donald Trump Cites Questionable ‘Pig’s Blood’ Story on Early Terrorism” – The New York Times

 

“On Friday night, Mr. Trump embraced another urban legend, claiming that an American general a century ago summarily executed terrorists with bullets dipped in pig’s blood.” There is not a shred of evidence for this claim!

Source: Donald Trump Cites Questionable ‘Pig’s Blood’ Story on Early Terrorism – The New York Times

“ISIS vs. History” – The American Interest

hat the rise and fall of a 12th-century Islamic empire does (and doesn’t) tell us about the rise (and fall?) of ISIS.” Before comparing the vastly different Islamic movements, Fromherz reviews the history of the Almohads, a radical Berber sect which briefly ruled in Muslim Spain (A great history lesson in its own right).

He is careful to note the many differences between the groups, but notes one important “possible comparison.” He observes that it is likely that “the process of routinization—that is, the process of ideological compromise and moderation needed to practically govern as state—will probably begin soon. There is no reason to believe ISIS will not follow the path of so many religious and millenarian movements before it. In this case, the best long-term strategy for ISIS’s would-be targets and victims may be to wait for ISIS to destroy itself.” I like this option!

Fromherz is not the only to note this trend toward routinization as a factor in bringing down radical movements. Rationally, based on a cost-benefit analysis, this is probably our best strategy. But, realistically, this is not emotionally or psychologically appealing, and therefore it is unlikely to be adopted. But we should heed Fromherz’s warning: “If parties and politics in the West become increasingly intolerant and nativist in their reaction to ISIS, the West may indeed inflict more harm on itself than anything the charismatically apocalyptic minds behind ISIS could imagine.”

Source: ISIS vs. History – The American Interest

“Killing the Islamic State Softly” | Foreign Policy

The interesting question is this: What would a smart power campaign directed against the challenges represented by the Islamic State (which are of course broader than just that group) look like? What are the techniques; levels of resources; and strategies of cooperation, collaboration, and communication?” James Stavridis offers some suggestions: Killing the Islamic State Softly | Foreign Policy

“The Refugees & the New War by Michael Ignatieff “| The New York Review of Books

Another credible voice making the case against giving ISIS what it wants: “Strategists will tell you that it is a mistake to fight the battle your enemies want you to fight. You should impose your strategy on them, not let them impose theirs on you. These lessons apply to the struggle with the leaders of ISIS. We have applied pressure upon them in Syria; they have replied with atrocious attacks in Ankara, Beirut, and now Paris. They are trying to provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with the Crusader infidels. We should deny them this opportunity.”

Source: The Refugees & the New War by Michael Ignatieff | The New York Review of Books

“Paris: The War ISIS Wants by Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid” | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“Following the Paris attacks, France, the United States, and our allies may opt for all-out war. But even if ISIS is destroyed, its message could still captivate many in coming generations.”

If we want to defeat ISIS we must understand them first. The desire for revenge in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris is understandable. However, this emotionally satisfying response will lead us right into the trap set by ISIS, and will most likely make things worse.

The article by Atran and Hamid go a long way in helping us understand ISIS and the motives to those who join the movement: Paris: The War ISIS Wants by Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“Did Obama Really ‘Cut and Run’ and ‘Abandon’ Iraq to ISIS?” | History News Network

Our political discourse is dominated by hyperbolic discourse that simplifies the world in an emotionally appealing way. Therein lies its power. It is emotionally gratifying and makes us feel like we’re in the know when we’re not. We would like the world to be black and white, but it isn’t. Unfortunately, theses false and/or deceptive narratives harden into “facts” as they are perpetuated via the media, the blogosphere, and social media. This rhetoric has poisoned our political discourse and has hampered our efforts to deal with our problems.

Some of the most despicable rhetoric has been reserved for President Obama. Once the rhetoric has established the general feeling that Obama is “incompetent” and “weak” (or “tyrannical” depending on the context) all further charges against him then “ring true” (no fact checking needed!). One of the recent charges against Obama accuses him of “cutting and running” from Iraq, leading directly to the creation of ISIS. With extensive knowledge of the situation, Brian Glyn Williams takes on this claim and concludes that “Maliki’s anti-Sunni policies directly led to the rise of ISIS. He, along with Paul Bremer, is the man most responsible for creating ISIS.” But he doesn’t let Obama off the hook completely.

Read Williams’ well-researched examination of the rise of ISIS here: History News Network | Did Obama Really “Cut and Run” and “Abandon” Iraq to ISIS?
ISIS

“Dylann Roof Was No Lone Madman” | History News Network

The historian Randall Law explains why Dylann Roof’s crime was an act of terror: “Terrorism is an infection whose best disinfectant is bright sunlight. We – all Americans, left, right, white, black – need to face the painful truth of what happened in Charleston: Dylan Roof is the product of a long-established, widely-held American tradition of racial hatred. In other words, Roof is not alone. History shows us this quite clearly.”

Dylan Roof