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Old 02-01-2013   #61
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Default Does Decapitating Terrorist Leaderships Work?

Anne Speckhard is a psychiatrist who has looked at women suicide bombers in the past and has written this short commentary for RUSI. From a comment on Amazon.com of her book, a very swift bio:
Quote:
She has interviewed over 350 terrorists, extremists, their supporters, hostages, family members and their close associates in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Russia, Belarus, North Ossetia, Morocco, Belgium, UK, the Netherlands and France. She was responsible for the design of the psychological and Islamic challenge portions of the US Department of Defense Detainee Rehabilitation Program in 2006-7 for use with the 20,000+ security detainees held by US forces in Iraq.
She opens with:
Quote:
In the last two-years, international counter-terrorism strategies have focused on decapitating terrorist leaderships. But the threat and the ideology remains. In the coming year it is important to address the psychological motivations for conducting terrorist acts.
Link:http://www.rusi.org/analysis/comment.../#.UQu8MR26eSo

There is a link to her book 'Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & Martyrs' too:http://www.amazon.com/product-review...owViewpoints=1

Another time a full, proper read; so straight to her conclusion:
Quote:
Continued vigilance is called for and well thought out and well-informed policies that keep in mind all four levels of the terrorist cocktail - decreasing the political grievances that fuel the existence of groups as well as shutting them down, fighting the ideology of terrorism and social support for it and addressing individual vulnerabilities are going to be ever more important to keep us safe in the coming year. Simply decapitating the leadership is not likely to be enough.
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Old 12-24-2013   #62
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Default More on drones

Copied to here from the drones thread.

On SWJ Blog, is a review of Dr. Brian Glyn William book 'Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda':http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...ar-on-al-qaeda

The first comment by a RAF officer, Keith Dear, points to an article in the journal Defence Stuies he wrote 'Beheading the Hydra? Does Killing Terrorist or Insurgent Leaders work', which is currently fully available for free: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/...3#.UrnPJfsXluh

Yet more to read one day, here is the author's explanation for his article:
Quote:
This study measures targeted killing against its aims. Air Marshal Nickols, the UK’s former Chief of Defence Intelligence, suggests that counterinsurgent forces kill or arrest key members of insurgent groups, known as High Value Targets or Medium Value Targets (HVTs/MVTs) in order to affect a group’s capability and psychology; all the security officials interviewed for this study argued similarly. This provides a useful analytical framework. Therefore, in section 1, I examine the effect of targeted killing on a group’s capability, finding that it does make a group less capable in the short term. In section 2, I examine targeted killing’s effect on group psychology, concluding that it is unlikely to achieve the psychological effects the counterinsurgent intends. In section 3, I examine targeted killing in cultural context, finding that in pre-modern societies, such as those in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, local culture increases the negative psychological effects of targeted killing. In section 4, I describe the nature of the evolution that targeted killing forces groups to undergo, finding consistent results across the ten conflicts studied: in the long-term it unites insurgents, and brings forward a younger, more radical leadership which makes the group more indiscriminately violent; I then explain why the dangerous effects of targeted killing have been so long ignored. In section 5, I examine the evidence against my argument. In concluding, I argue that targeted killing can be tactically effective but is strategically counterproductive. Finally, I present policy advice based on my findings.
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Old 06-26-2014   #63
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Originally Posted by Maeda Toshiie View Post
Is that even possible? I highly doubt the necessary intel for real time targeting is available.
The theory (my theory) is that you may not actually kill him (the targeted leader) but you will drive him underground and make life as intolerable for him as he has made it for his subjects.

Let me give you a very broad summary of events...

The 3-cruise missile theory.

The first missile is aimed at a strategic military target. Something like the most loyal troops like a Presidential Guard or the like. This makes the point that troops loyal to the 'target' can and will be targeted.

The second missile is aimed that the official residence of the 'target' at 24 hours notice. He won't be there when it arrives but the message will be clear.

The third missle will be reserved for a strike on the target. A reward of $1m (or more) will be promised for information on the location of the 'target' leading to a successful strike on him but probably won't be used.

As with Gadaffi and Saddam who moved a few times a day to avoid being in one place long enough to offer a target the strain becomes unbearable (as these people are used to the world revolving around them in their time and not having to keep moving out of fear for their lives). The result is that even their supporters avoid them as they do not wish to be collateral damage in the event of a strike and they themselves begin to trust no one and eventually offer a nice isolated target for a strike or a visit from a special forces team.

The result... let the target fell the fear and don't end up having many thousands of civilians killed to get at the 'target' when the message will be clearly transmitted to the one who is the cause of all the problems that there is a cruise missile with his name on it.

If the use of quid pro quo cruise missile strikes had been used (in the manner I suggested) in Syria the regime could have/ would have been put under sever pressure without having to arm the rebels (and we know hat a stupid policy that has been).

Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2014 at 12:58 PM. Reason: Copied from the Syria thread as they add to this thread and have references sometimes.
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Old 06-27-2014   #64
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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
The theory (my theory) is that you may not actually kill him (the targeted leader) but you will drive him underground and make life as intolerable for him as he has made it for his subjects.

Let me give you a very broad summary of events...

The 3-cruise missile theory.

The first missile is aimed at a strategic military target. Something like the most loyal troops like a Presidential Guard or the like. This makes the point that troops loyal to the 'target' can and will be targeted.

The second missile is aimed that the official residence of the 'target' at 24 hours notice. He won't be there when it arrives but the message will be clear.

The third missle will be reserved for a strike on the target. A reward of $1m (or more) will be promised for information on the location of the 'target' leading to a successful strike on him but probably won't be used.

As with Gadaffi and Saddam who moved a few times a day to avoid being in one place long enough to offer a target the strain becomes unbearable (as these people are used to the world revolving around them in their time and not having to keep moving out of fear for their lives). The result is that even their supporters avoid them as they do not wish to be collateral damage in the event of a strike and they themselves begin to trust no one and eventually offer a nice isolated target for a strike or a visit from a special forces team.

The result... let the target fell the fear and don't end up having many thousands of civilians killed to get at the 'target' when the message will be clearly transmitted to the one who is the cause of all the problems that there is a cruise missile with his name on it.

If the use of quid pro quo cruise missile strikes had been used (in the manner I suggested) in Syria the regime could have/ would have been put under sever pressure without having to arm the rebels (and we know hat a stupid policy that has been).
Ok, so you've fired off your three missiles. The dictator goes underground, his army disperses. They issue a statement telling you to stick your missiles where the sun don't shine, and proceed to do more of whatever it was you objected to in the first place. Your bluff has been called. Now what do you do? Do you escalate, and (assuming you're in the awkward position of leading a democracy) face the wrath of your populace and rest of the political edifice? Do you back down? Or do you just stand there buck naked with your putz shriveling in a cold breeze?

I can't see how it's a good idea to start firing off missiles based on assumptions about how somebody else is going to react, because you don't know how they're going to react. I can't see how it's a good idea to start something you aren't willing to finish: if you don't have a viable and politically feasible plan to escalate if plan A fails, better keep your missile in your pants, because once you're in, you're in.

I agree on not arming the rebels, unless of course there is some faction that you really want to see win and that you really think can win, both contentions requiring very realistic assessment and full awareness that you might be wrong. However, just because you don't arm the rebels doesn't mean they won't get arms. They will. People make ways. If they don't get them from you, they'll get them from someone else: no shortage of actors and agendas out there. If they want to fight, they will. If the dictator falls, different factions will fight it out to fill the vacuum. These things are not ours to control, and will happen whether we like it or not.
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2014 at 12:58 PM. Reason: Copied from the Syria thread as they add to this thread and have references sometimes.
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Old 06-27-2014   #65
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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
The theory (my theory) is that you may not actually kill him (the targeted leader) but you will drive him underground and make life as intolerable for him as he has made it for his subjects.

Let me give you a very broad summary of events...

The 3-cruise missile theory.

The first missile is aimed at a strategic military target. Something like the most loyal troops like a Presidential Guard or the like. This makes the point that troops loyal to the 'target' can and will be targeted.

The second missile is aimed that the official residence of the 'target' at 24 hours notice. He won't be there when it arrives but the message will be clear.

The third missle will be reserved for a strike on the target. A reward of $1m (or more) will be promised for information on the location of the 'target' leading to a successful strike on him but probably won't be used.

As with Gadaffi and Saddam who moved a few times a day to avoid being in one place long enough to offer a target the strain becomes unbearable (as these people are used to the world revolving around them in their time and not having to keep moving out of fear for their lives). The result is that even their supporters avoid them as they do not wish to be collateral damage in the event of a strike and they themselves begin to trust no one and eventually offer a nice isolated target for a strike or a visit from a special forces team.

The result... let the target fell the fear and don't end up having many thousands of civilians killed to get at the 'target' when the message will be clearly transmitted to the one who is the cause of all the problems that there is a cruise missile with his name on it.

If the use of quid pro quo cruise missile strikes had been used (in the manner I suggested) in Syria the regime could have/ would have been put under sever pressure without having to arm the rebels (and we know hat a stupid policy that has been).
Again, killing the target, in this case Assad, is no guarantee that the next person in line is better, or that there will even be a orderly transition of power. The result could be total anarchy. At least with Assad in power you have someone to negotiate with.

Seems to me you want to know what you are going to get next before you pull that trigger.
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2014 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Copied from the Syria thread as they add to this thread and have references sometimes.
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Old 06-27-2014   #66
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Again, killing the target, in this case Assad, is no guarantee that the next person in line is better, or that there will even be a orderly transition of power.
Yes that is always a consideration when one considers an assassination.

Quote:
The result could be total anarchy. At least with Assad in power you have someone to negotiate with.
Yea, over the bodies of 160,000 civilians.

I guess you don't understand the concept I propose. No matter.

Quote:
Seems to me you want to know what you are going to get next before you pull that trigger.
Obviously.

You want to anticipate the consequences, intended and unintended, of all actions before proceeding.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2014 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Copied from the Syria thread as they add to this thread and have references sometimes.
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Old 07-03-2014   #67
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Yea, over the bodies of 160,000 civilians.

I guess you don't understand the concept I propose. No matter.
I think I understand it, I just think it is simplistic.This is from research on killing the head of terrorist organizations as a tactic, but the principal is the same.

Quote:
In general, the study found that the decapitation strategy
appears to have little effect on the reduction of terrorist activity. The most notable trend from the statistical analysis was that decapitation strikes on religious terrorist groups tended to be followed by sharp increases in fatalities. This could be an important indication that decapitation strikes should be carefully considered on the basis of the type of group targeted. As this strategy is currently viewed to be effective by policy makers and is supported by public opinion, more data should be gathered in order to thoroughly study the efficacy of the tactic.
The British finally gave us these types of targeted killing of IRA members in part because there was never anyone in power long enough to negotiate a final peace. Killings don't change the nature of the grievances, the reason people fight, or the dynamics of the game, it only alters the players.

I doubt that killing Assad, even if accomplished in the early days of the conflict, would have resulted in a lower death toll. It is not a solution that can bring a conflict to an end. There will have to be trials for war crime, reintegration of fighters, and a peace and reconciliation commission to bring closure to the war.

Without a massive commitment of forces from outside Syria, it will end in one of two ways. Assad, or someone like Assad (probably more brutal) wins; or the country is divided with Assad remaining in power in "South Syria" and a food fight over the north. That food fight will be just as bloody.
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2014 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Copied from the Syria thread as they add to this thread and have references sometimes.
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Old 07-03-2014   #68
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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
I think I understand it, I just think it is simplistic.This is from research on killing the head of terrorist organizations as a tactic, but the principal is the same.
Your reference relates to: "Does Killing or Capturing its Leaders Reduce a Terrorist Group’s Activity?"

Did I ever say that it did?

Would that be the only possible reason to target insurgent leadership?

You clearly neither understand what I stated nor the wider view towards he targeting of insurgent/terrorist leadership.

Then again we see from the following study: Attacking the Leader, Missing the Mark where it concludes:

Quote:
Ultimately, however, leadership targeting alone is not enough to effectively fight a strong and emboldened terrorist organization.
Again, I would ask the author - with tears in my eyes - why she assumes that leadership targeting is the sole strategy employed to fight the organisation.

Quote:
The British finally gave us these types of targeted killing of IRA members in part because there was never anyone in power long enough to negotiate a final peace. Killings don't change the nature of the grievances, the reason people fight, or the dynamics of the game, it only alters the players.
I am not aware of the British policy in this regard but would assume that the legality of 'murdering' citizens of their country was a significant factor.

Quote:
I doubt that killing Assad, even if accomplished in the early days of the conflict, would have resulted in a lower death toll. It is not a solution that can bring a conflict to an end. There will have to be trials for war crime, reintegration of fighters, and a peace and reconciliation commission to bring closure to the war.
No, no, no. Where do you get this stuff from? Syria is not the US and they have never been concerned with what the US thought - certainly since 1971 when daddy took charge. Let us assume that the CIA was in fact a competent outfit and they had an accurate assesment of the Syrian hierarchy and the importance and value of each of the component role players. They would be in a position to identify the demise of which persons would lead/contribute to the strategic result sought by the US in Syria (taking into account any possible negative or unintended consequences).

Quote:
Without a massive commitment of forces from outside Syria, it will end in one of two ways. Assad, or someone like Assad (probably more brutal) wins; or the country is divided with Assad remaining in power in "South Syria" and a food fight over the north. That food fight will be just as bloody.
No...

Once again you miss the point.

The world is now faced with the outcome - 160,000 dead and massive infrastructure damage - as a result of the actions (or inaction if you prefer) over the last few years. In any such situation it is always a matter of who dies/gets killed. In this case we have seen (the majority of the) 160,000 killed being as civilians and citizens rising up against an illegitimate and brutal dictatorship. I certainly would not be outraged if the dead comprised the military and supporters of the Assad regime. Because of the carnage there must be no doubt that the need for revenge (a beast alive and well in the heart of the Arab) will have its day and this is not only as a result of the years under the brutal Assad dictatorship but in addition the 160,000 deaths in the last few years. Yes the blood will flow... and probably with some justification. Why would you want to protect the perpetrators?

Now please read this:

Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns

Quote:
Is killing or capturing insurgent leaders an effective tactic? Previous research on interstate war and counterterrorism has suggested that targeting enemy leaders does not work. Most studies of the efficacy of leadership decapitation, however, have relied on unsystematic evidence and poor research design. An analysis based on fresh evidence and a new research design indicates the opposite relationship and yields four key findings. First, campaigns are more likely to end quickly when counterinsurgents successfully target enemy leaders. Second, counterinsurgents who capture or kill insurgent leaders are significantly more likely to defeat insurgencies than those who fail to capture or kill such leaders. Third, the intensity of a conflict is likelier to decrease following the successful removal of an enemy leader than it is after a failed attempt. Fourth, insurgent attacks are more likely to decrease after successful leadership decapitations than after failed attempts. Additional analysis suggests that these findings are attributable to successful leadership decapitation, and that the relationship between decapitation and campaign success holds across different types of insurgencies.
Thanks for the references, Mike

Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2014 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Copied from the Syria thread as they add to this thread and have references sometimes.
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Old 07-03-2014   #69
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Default HVT decapitation in Northern Ireland: a riposte

TheCurmudgeon posted:
Quote:
The British finally gave us these types of targeted killing of IRA members in part because there was never anyone in power long enough to negotiate a final peace. Killings don't change the nature of the grievances, the reason people fight, or the dynamics of the game, it only alters the players.
Cited in part JMA's reply
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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
I am not aware of the British policy in this regard but would assume that the legality of 'murdering' citizens of their country was a significant factor.
During 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland (1969-1998) there were allegations that the British security forces had a policy 'Shoot to Kill' for those handling weapons, most notably the 1987 Loughall shooting:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loughgall_Ambush and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoot_t...90_TV_drama%29

This is very different from the 'targeted killing of (senior) IRA members', which if anything was not pursued. Indeed my recollection is that one if not two leaders murder by Loyalists was averted by official security force action. See:http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/d...00/2543503.stm Although not a PIRA leader I recall this:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernade...vlin_McAliskey

I expect there was some political consideration given to a HVT decapitation option, notably after the murder of the Mountbatten family and Warrenpoint.

The Loyalist paramilitaries at various stages engaged in killing HVT and were themselves victims of PIRA HVT murders.
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Old 12-05-2014   #70
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Default AQ works like the Boy Scouts

An alternative targeting strategy, written by a USAF LtC, first spotted in summary on: http://www.matthewaid.com/post/10440...ty-killing-the

Which cites a WaPo article:http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/s...he-boy-scouts/

In summary:
Quote:
...the best terror cells work a lot like a big nonprofit group. Like the Boy Scouts of America. From studying the scouts, he determined the best way to stop terrorists is to target their bureaucrats – not top leader...
The main article 'Boy Scouts, Bureaucracy, and Counternetwork Targeting' cannot readily be located alas, including on Hoover Institution's website.

A contemporary situation review:http://www.theatlantic.com/internati...ership/382548/
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Old 02-15-2015   #71
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Default Exposure: The Kill List (SOF -v- HVT)

This is a UK ITV documentary:
Quote:
...revealing the inside story of how the SAS and US special forces targeted and captured or killed insurgents during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are a number of "talking heads" John Nagl, Michael Hoh, David Kilcullen, Graeme Lamb and a former UK SAS commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Williams, who in one comment said:
Quote:
Its purpose was the destruction of al-Qaeda in Iraq and it did deliver from it quite a lot of death.
Link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQzQH0ZF9lI
There is a UK website, but it requires registration and a UK post code - hence use of a YouTube link.

It was interesting in places, especially the comments by Graeme Lamb and Richard Williams. David Kilcullen's closing comment was stark.
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Old 03-22-2015   #72
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Default Killing top terrorists is not enough

An opinion piece by David Ignatius, in the WaPo two weeks ago and rediscovered today. Added as it refers to two academic articles that argue the tactic is not enough:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinio...99_story.html?

Only the first article is openly available, the 2014 article in International Security is behind a pay wall:http://informationcollective.org/wp-.../01/Jordan.pdf
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Old 03-22-2015   #73
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Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
An opinion piece by David Ignatius, in the WaPo two weeks ago and rediscovered today. Added as it refers to two academic articles that argue the tactic is not enough:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinio...99_story.html?

Only the first article is openly available, the 2014 article in International Security is behind a pay wall:http://informationcollective.org/wp-.../01/Jordan.pdf
It's true when you attack a network it tends to get stronger, and it is also true that targeting is not a strategy. However, in lieu of a strategy targeting leaders was assumed to disrupt planned attacks (it has some cases) and gradually degrade an organization.

We disagree on this point, but we are at war with these global Islamists, and we can't win it by occupying Muslim countries. It is apparent that the majority of moderate Muslims are not going to rise up and defeat these groups after years of the false hope of through, by, and with. There are simply too many issues ranging from fanatic hatred, corruption, Shi'a-Sunni split (which frankly may be to our advantage) for the West to come in with its political and economic tool kit to fix. I think our track record in this regard is around zero?

We look at historical parallels and assume these movements will burn themselves out in a few years, but of course we know that is an assumption that may be proven false. The threat they pose to the international order is not exaggerated, a number of states are the verge of failure, with Yemen being the most recent case. They have no intention of limiting their attacks to Muslim nations, so based on logistics it seems logical Europe will be next, then America. We'll react in ways that will change the international order in unpredictable ways. If we ever had an opportunity to build a new international order after the Cold War that would promote a more enduring peace, it seems that opportunity is slipping away, or in the worst case has slipped away.

The bottom line is we still haven't figured out to wage strategic level war against networks. GEN McCrystal mastered the operational approach for dismantling a network in Iraq, but think of what would be required (consensus wise) to do that globally? There is little will for most countries to fight until they are facing a serious threat. We need to do better of getting to the left of bang, and not waiting until a country's survival is in peril and reacting, and reacting narrowly within a state's borders.
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Old 03-22-2015   #74
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Bill,

Within the approach taken by the West (a very general phrase) and its allies against the violent jihadists there has been IMHO no over-arching, agreed strategy beyond containment. Pursuing containment for the West and some allies has been guided by reducing the level of violence and fear, so that in time political and other opportunities can be pursued.

For complex reasons our politicians have been unable to identify opportunities, so they have depended on containment, alongside decapitation (HVT), a very heavy dose of military intervention and a pathetic ideological / information response (IIR). Officialdom, here I would refer mainly to the UK government, which insisted there was a coherent working IIR. Then along came the impact of Syria first, then lately ISIS and the flow of foreign fighters which has "pricked the balloon".
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Old 03-22-2015   #75
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Bill,

Within the approach taken by the West (a very general phrase) and its allies against the violent jihadists there has been IMHO no over-arching, agreed strategy beyond containment. Pursuing containment for the West and some allies has been guided by reducing the level of violence and fear, so that in time political and other opportunities can be pursued.

For complex reasons our politicians have been unable to identify opportunities, so they have depended on containment, alongside decapitation (HVT), a very heavy dose of military intervention and a pathetic ideological / information response (IIR). Officialdom, here I would refer mainly to the UK government, which insisted there was a coherent working IIR. Then along came the impact of Syria first, then lately ISIS and the flow of foreign fighters which has "pricked the balloon".
I agree we haven't figured it out, nor do I have a strategy in mind to offer that would be acceptable to our perspective liberal governments. Our counter narrative has overly focused on the false belief everyone wants to be like us if they only had the chance. We're perplexed by the growing popularity of ISIS/ISIL when we use mirror analysis. I disagree with Bob's perspective that these movements can be countered by so-called legitimate governance alone. It all comes back to legitimate to who? The thousands of Muslims being murdered in the effected areas likely don't consider these jihadists legitimate.

I do think it takes a network to defeat a network, but not in the simplistic terms this phrase is often used. I also think we need to kill and capture at a higher than we have been doing. That means treating it like the war it is, and dismissing the failed attempt to display these terrorist networks on a chart, and then fool ourselves repeatedly by stating if we only remove these two or three nodes the network will collapse. That runs against the grain of the new American way of war where we still apply effects based operations to no discernible end. We also shoot ourselves in the foot when we promote Arab Springs in countries that quite simply are not ready for democracy. The governments in place admittedly are/were terrible and oppressive, but still better than the alternative. We need to help these societies prepare for democracy (assuming the ruling regimes will allow it, but in most cases it will be viewed as subversion) over time, and in the mean time find ways to convince these governments to govern better. I know it seems like, and may be, rainbows and unicorns, but our current approach isn't working.
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Old 06-06-2016   #76
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Default Back to the debate

Hat tip to WoTR for this article and here is a key sentence:
Quote:
The best way to defeat ISIL in the long term is to leave Abu Bakr in place – as the caliph who lost his kingdom.
Link:http://warontherocks.com/2016/06/don...-decapitation/

One reference looks interesting, 'Attacking the Leader, Missing the Mark: Why Terrorist Groups Survive Decapitation Strikes' and I think was missed here:http://belfercenter.hks.harvard.edu/publication/24270/attacking_the_leader_missing_the_mark.html?

It is 32pg PDF and is free.
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