Thursday, 29 March 2007

Counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, counterintuitive

Throughout this month, I will be posting excerpts of my lengthy paper "The War on Terror and the Fire Paradox", as mentioned in this post. Here is one such excerpt...

Persuasive essay
To-the-point: counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, counterintuitive

Why do many current counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency, policies only make it all worse? US Global War on Terror and the proliferation of the radical, fundamentalist Islamic ideology in a terrorist insurgency relate to and feed on each other. One of the main causes of insurgent terrorism — modern and historical — may well be the fight against terrorism: counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Battles launched in the name of terrorism or against the name of terrorism often have the same affects: causing both sides to recruit for their pro- or counterterrorist causes.

One of my main doctrines, if you will, of the Middle East and elsewhere is that vengeance leads to vengeance. An eye for an eye is a ludicrous notion; why would one what everyone to be blind, including one’s self? This all relates to something called the fire paradox. This paradox is often used to describe how the fight against naturally reoccurring wildfires just leads to more of them — in greater number and voracity. I also apply it to counterterrorism, especially in the Middle East. Not to say we should not try to slow the rise of terrorism at all, but the way countries like the United States and Israel go about their anti-terrorism efforts is self-defeating and creates more destruction on both sides.

The fire paradox can be applied to the Middle East situation. The Gaza and West Bank problems will not go away until Israel and the US stop trying to destroy what they see as the problem, thus elevating the real problem. It is like with wildfires. Scientific data shows that the more people try to stop and put out wildfires, the greater in extremity and number those fires will be. The term — which I just found out existed after I wrote it down as the title a blog post — "fire paradox" was coined by European scientists launching a project to work on the ecological problem related to fires. This paradox applies to aspects of the situation in the Middle East, especially to what is going on in Iraq and Israel-Palestine. What Israel's decades-old policy does is destroy "terrorists", but the way they go about doing so creates a greater number of these "freedom fighters" who fight harder than ever. In fact, Israel’s policy directly affects perception in the Muslim world of America and, thus, relates to the so-called war on terrorism. The policy also spawns more terrorist movements and support for Islamic extremism.

The Israel-Palestine issue is a central fissure between the Muslim world and the West (i.e. N America and Europe) and connects policy to perception — especially since the US strongly supports Israel in an open manner — to terrorism, then resulting in counterterrorism/war on terror policy and more terror. One thing people can agree on is that "perceived threats to Islam create support for terrorism" (Fair, Haqqani "Think Again: Islamist Terrorism"). Because of the preemptive doctrine of the GWOT, nations and their peoples are even more apprehensive over American military action.

In discussing terrorism and the war on terror, one must also mull over insurgency, especially in areas tied politically to the war on terror, i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan. Those two countries are now hotbeds for terrorist recruitment. Between the sectarian militias fighting each other and the US in civil war-stricken Iraq and the resurgence of the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan who knows how long the battle with insurgent terrorists will last — whether local to where the insurgency is, or even carried by a movement abroad. A notable article on counterinsurgency, which is directly related to counterterrorism and the fire paradox, is "Dead End: Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice" by Edward Luttwak.

True, there are the alternative methods and tactics of counterinsurgency warfare, but do they actually work? Insurgents do not always win, but their defeats can rarely be attributed to counterinsurgency warfare, as we shall see.
[There's an] essentially political nature of the struggle against insurgents. ... amid the frustrations of fighting a mostly invisible enemy
a necessary if not sufficient condition of victory is to provide what the insurgents cannot: basic public services, physical reconstruction, the hope of economic development and social amelioration. The hidden assumption here is that there is only one kind of politics in this world, a politics in which popular support is important or even decisive, and that such support can be won by providing better government. ...many people prefer indigenous and religious oppression to the freedoms offered by foreign invaders [in Iraq or Afghanistan].

Instead, they obeyed…who summoned them to fight against the ungodly innovations of the foreign invader. ...That was all that mattered to most…not what was proposed but by whom it was proposed.

The vast majority of Afghans and Iraqis naturally believe their religious leaders. The alternative would be to believe what for them is entirely unbelievable: that foreigners are unselfishly expending blood and treasure in order to help them.

Altruism isn't something people can easily be convinced of, especially if the source is a long time 'enemy'. Contrary to popular belief, support for terrorism and jihad may not correlate with poverty as much as previously thought (see Fair, Haqqani), although education and willingness to believe things other than what religious or political authorities tell people does matter.
[Insurgents] must have at least the passive cooperation of local inhabitants. …out of sympathy for their cause or in terror of their vengeance...

The essentially political advantage of the insurgents in commanding at least the silence of the local population cannot be overcome by technical means no matter how advanced.
All its best methods, all its clever tactics, all the treasure and blood that the United States has been willing to expend, cannot overcome the crippling ambivalence of occupiers who refuse to govern, and their principled and inevitable refusal to out-terrorize the insurgents, the necessary and sufficient condition of a tranquil occupation.

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