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  1. #1
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default We need less Chemo and Surgery and more "Voom."

    Recently Secretary Panetta applied a cancer treatment analogy to our efforts to defeat terrorism. Apparently the message is that we have applied massive does of chemo therapy and radiation to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and the Horn of Africa, and our very best surgeons have cut out the portions of the cancer deemed to be most problematic - and yet the cancer continues to spread. Not to worry, however, we are hiring more surgeons.

    It seems to me that a "Cat in the Hat Comes Back" analogy is more appropriate. We had a small, but problematic "spot" and despite the best efforts of Cats A, B and C (lets call them "governance," "development" and "security"; or perhaps "regime change," "Pop-Centric COIN" and BPC/CT") the spot has frustrated our best efforts and continued to grow. What we need is a lot less Cat A, Cat B and Cat C, and a little bit of Cat Z and "Voom."

    Al-Qaeda 'Cancer' Spreads With U.S. Chasing, Panetta Says Bloomberg.com, By Gopal Ratnam -
    “We have slowed the primary cancer -- but we know the cancer has also metastasized to other parts of the global body” despite American military gains against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen in the last decade, Panetta said in a speech yesterday in Washington.

    ... The continuing fight against the terror group “will largely take place outside declared combat zones,” carried out by U.S. Special Operations Forces and through assistance to countries so they “can be effective in combating terrorism on their own,” Panetta said at an event organized by the Center for a New American Security, a policy research group in Washington... Panetta said “we are continuing to ramp up Special Operations Forces” even as the Pentagon’s budget comes under pressure because of budget deficits and debt and the military’s size is being cut back. The forces trained to conduct commando operations, such as the one that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, already have doubled in size from 37,000 on Sept. 11, 2011, to 64,000 today and “will grow to 72,000 by 2017,” he said...
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-1...etta-says.html


    The Cat in the Hat Comes Back:
    The Cat in the Hat made a return appearance in this 1958 sequel. Once again, the mother has left Sally and her unnamed brother alone for the day, but this time, they are instructed to clear away a huge amount of snow while she is out. While they are working, the cat turns up and snacks on a cake in the bathtub with the water running, and leaves a pink residue. Preliminary attempts to clean it up fail as they only transfer the mess elsewhere, including a dress, the wall, a pair of ten dollar shoes, a rug, the bed, and then eventually outside. The cat reveals that Little Cat A is nested inside his hat. Little Cat A doffs his hat to reveal Little Cat B, who reveals C, and so on. A "spot killing" war then takes place between the mess and Little Cats A through V, who use an arsenal of primitive weapons including pop guns, bats, and a lawnmower. Unfortunately, the initial battle to rid the mess only makes it into an entire yard-covering spot. Little Cats V, W, X, and Y then take off their hats to uncover microscopic Little Cat Z. Z takes his hat off and unleashes a "Voom", which cleans up the back yard and puts all of the other Little Cats back into the big Cat in the Hat's hat. The cat leaves, with the promise he will return some day, and bring all his little cats back.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cat_in_the_Hat

    The $64,000 question is: Where is Cat Z, and what is "voom"?

    I have my thoughts on that topic, but I would like to hear yours.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  2. #2
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    I'm not sure the "spreading cancer" analogy is useful from the start.

    Cancer is a major threat to life, a potentially fatal disease. Al Qaeda specifically and Islamic extremism generally are not and never have been an existential threat to the US.

    "Spreading" is substantially exaggerated IMO. These movements have not been eliminated but they haven't gained in influence or capacity either. In many areas (SE Asia was once melodramatically called the second front in the GWOT) they have declined.

    I don't see any impending moment when there can be a "victory" over these movements; it's not that kind of fight. It will be a long fight, but that doesn't mean it has to be a long war. I don't think turning it into a war is advantageous to us.

    If I had to outline a very general program, it would look something like this:

    1. Defend effectively. Monitoring, tracking, infiltrating, and disrupting plots won't eliminate the antagonists, but it can minimize their impact, deprive them of high profile success, and isolate them from supporters who want to see results.

    2. Attack effectively. Find and eliminate the key individuals on the operational and the funding/support side by whatever means work.

    3. Starve them. Don't occupy territory, don't feed that "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" narrative. Extended occupations of Muslim territory provide a discrete, specific target for jihadi propaganda and fundraising and should be avoided. We'll never convert the inner circle, they have to be killed, arrested, or driven so far underground that they can't operate. The inner circle can be isolated from their sources of support and recruitment.

    4. Don't be stupid. There will always someone who will tell us that the cause of all the mess is bad governance in Muslim countries and we can fix the mess by fixing governance in Muslim countries. Trying to do that is just going to get us deeper in the $#!t. It can be argued (though often exaggerated) that the bad governance problem is to some extent something we helped create, but we can't undo the effect of meddling past by meddling again.

    It's certainly a fight, but I don't think it has to be a war. Going big and heavy and indulging in excesses like regime change and nation building does not earn us any advantage and can be a real liability.

    All IMO, obviously.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  3. #3
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    Thumbs down To hell with metaphors

    whether cancer, cats in hats, etc., etc.

    We would do better to couch our assertions within the broad conventional frameworks, even if those assertions contain outrageously unconventional strategies and tactics.

    The term "fight" has no real meaning in this thread's context. A "War" (armed conflict) Paradigm has meaning. A non-War Paradigm also has meaning; but is more limiting in what strategies and tactics are available.

    End rant.

    BTW, these (except 4, which is a "don't"):

    from Dayuhan

    1. Defend effectively. Monitoring, tracking, infiltrating, and disrupting plots won't eliminate the antagonists, but it can minimize their impact, deprive them of high profile success, and isolate them from supporters who want to see results.

    2. Attack effectively. Find and eliminate the key individuals on the operational and the funding/support side by whatever means work.

    3. Starve them. Don't occupy territory, don't feed that "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" narrative. Extended occupations of Muslim territory provide a discrete, specific target for jihadi propaganda and fundraising and should be avoided. We'll never convert the inner circle, they have to be killed, arrested, or driven so far underground that they can't operate. The inner circle can be isolated from their sources of support and recruitment.

    4. Don't be stupid. There will always someone who will tell us that the cause of all the mess is bad governance in Muslim countries and we can fix the mess by fixing governance in Muslim countries. Trying to do that is just going to get us deeper in the $#!t. It can be argued (though often exaggerated) that the bad governance problem is to some extent something we helped create, but we can't undo the effect of meddling past by meddling again.
    are within the War Paradigm (the USA position); but questionable under the non-War Paradigm (EU and UN positions).

    Note also that the War Paradigm is not limited to the SW quadrant of this matrix (JMM added Tangible = "military struggle" and Abstract = "political struggle"; though various "non-violent", "political" actions can be very "tangible"):

    Lwin CG Matrix - Fig 2.jpg

    from 1997 Lwin (thesis), Great States, Weak States & Assymetric Strategies.pdf (then a CPT, now a COL).

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 11-21-2012 at 10:59 PM.

  4. #4
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Competition not a cancer

    I don't like the apparent simplicity of Secretary Panetta using a medical analogy, for several reasons. Such an analogy may suit a domestic and friendly audience, like CNAS. I also fear that what he said is actually policy and indicates how he and others perceive the issues.

    The conflict against some terrorism waged by AQ and its affiliates by the USA, allies and friends is above all an ideological, political competition. AQ plus have via their message been able to mobilise and motivate a tiny minority to wage a violent Jihad. Many others, still a minority, have provided non-lethal support and waged the non-violent Jihad.

    Several times AQ's message has been rejected and still is by the vast majority who it is aimed at.

    Political mobilisation abroad for the USA, allies and friends can be hard to understand, let alone anticipate. Nor does it come from amassing data, viewing the world via a VDU and relying on the "men in black" aka SOF.

    Dayuhan is right:
    Don't be stupid
    Secretary Panetta's speech does not help.
    davidbfpo

  5. #5
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    The conflict against some terrorism waged by AQ and its affiliates by the USA, allies and friends is above all an ideological, political competition. AQ plus have via their message been able to mobilise and motivate a tiny minority to wage a violent Jihad. Many others, still a minority, have provided non-lethal support and waged the non-violent Jihad.

    Several times AQ's message has been rejected and still is by the vast majority who it is aimed at.

    Political mobilisation abroad for the USA, allies and friends can be hard to understand, let alone anticipate. Nor does it come from amassing data, viewing the world via a VDU and relying on the "men in black" aka SOF.
    Certainly there's a political and ideological competition going on, but I'm not at all sure it's a competition between us and AQ, or even between us and our allies and AQ. I see it more as an internal competition in the Islamic world, a competition between a more progressive Islam that is willing to coexist with the west (while not subservient to or even totally enamored of Western agendas) and a fundamentalist Islam that sees the West purely as an antagonist. I wouldn't say we have no part in that competition, but we have to accept that we're not one of the competing parties, and we aren't necessarily trying to build our influence. Trying to hard to push our own influence can actually work against us, it feeds the narrative of the fundamentalist and the perception that we are trying to dominate the Islamic world. We're trying to support the competitive position of the groups that are most willing to coexist, even though they are not necessarily friends or allies. That requires subtlety, which has never been our strongest suit. We cannot credibly position ourselves as the champion of the oppressed Muslims, and we will step on our collective putz if we try. We can and should demonstrate that if people attack us we will kill them, but we have to separate that from anything that looks like an attempt to control Muslim countries or impose western ways on Muslims.

    The comment that this will be a long fight but it needn't be a long war was perhaps based on an overly civilian view of what war is, but I think that view exists among those who make decisions as well. Call it a war and we immediately conjure up visions of large forces, of campaigns, of overwhelming force. I don't think that's what we need. While this fight - war if you will - will need action, that action will best come from law enforcement in places where there's law, from SF operations where there isn't. Large operations of the sort generally thought of as "war" need to be avoided whenever possible IMO. Even when they succeed they feed that narrative of Westerners conquering Muslims and provide a discrete target for jihadi recruitment and fundraising.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  6. #6
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Is AQ still about errorism or isn't it long since about loudmouthing, coupled with undermining of Arab regimes in hope for a theocratic caliphate?

    Shouldn't it be possible to be a less obvious or at least less enticing target for their PR stunts than said regimes?


    AQ in person of UBL declared 'war' and sought its battles, it got those battles in AFG and fled. It got battles in Iraq after they were invited to play there and they lost.
    I suppose AQ's interest in PR stunts / battles is not cast in stone; it might be malleable.


    The whole AQ / errorism thing changes entirely once you don't assume their tendency towards PR stunts against you and your kind as cast in stone.


    AQ transformed from a small terror group and civil war international mercenary group into an ideological movement. Why still treat it as a terror group only?

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