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Old 11-29-2012   #41
wm
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Default Wrong Geisel Work

Bob's World started this thread with a reference to a Panetta speech, a medical metaphor, and the The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. He proceeded to ask "Where is Cat Z and what is 'voom'?"

I think that the starting point and frame of reference are somewhat mistaken. Try reading "Yertle the Turtle" instead:
Quote:
Originally Posted by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yertle_the_Turtle_and_Other_Stories
The eponymous story revolves around a Yertle the Turtle, the king of the pond. Unsatisfied with the stone that serves as his throne, he commands the other turtles to stack themselves beneath him so that he can see further and expand his kingdom. However, the stacked turtles are in pain and Mack, the turtle at the very bottom of the pile, is suffering the most. Mack asks Yertle for a respite, but Yertle just tells him to shut up. Then Yertle decides to expand his kingdom and commands more and more turtles to add to his throne. Mack makes a second request for a respite because the increased weight is now causing extreme pain to the turtles at the bottom of the pile. Again Yertle yells at Mack to shut up. Then Yertle notices the moon rising above him as the night approaches. Furious that something "dares to be higher than Yertle the King", he decides to call for even more turtles in an attempt to rise above it. However, before he can give the command, Mack decides he has had enough. He burps, shaking the stack of turtles and tossing Yertle off into the mud, leaving him "King of the Mud" and freeing the others.
As I'm sure you can see, at least two levels of metaphoric interpretation are available for King Yertle and the pond/mud puddle. Please note that the turtles solved their problem without recourse to outside intervention. The turtles apparently saw no need to ask an eagle (Little Cat Z?) to swoop down from the sky and carry King Yertle away (voom?).

The polar positions taken in the rest of this thread remind me of another Theodor Geisel (AKA Dr. Seuss and Theo. LeSieg) story--"The Zax"--while the need to define terms precisely in order to identify the problem and its sources)/solutions is reminiscent of "Too Many Daves" (both in The Sneetches and Other Stories). For those who want to get past the children's literature, I'd suggest a review of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations discussion of family resemblances as a way of trying to solve the problems of applying definitions to achieve identification.

BTW, my simple answer to Bob's initial question is to suggest that maybe the Cat in the Hat with his matroysha (nested Russian Dolls) solutions ought to stop calling in places where he isn't invited.
Or, more tersely, "Cat in the Hat, MYOB!*"

*MYOB =mind your own business
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Old 11-29-2012   #42
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There is some truth to the idea that everything we need to know about dealing with these situations "we learned in kindergarden."

But that would be "too simplistic," so we seek the long, complex, expensive, intrusive, violent, controlling solution instead. (and the special equipment, gangs of contracted SMEs, massive defense budgets to go with).
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Old 11-29-2012   #43
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Default Hi wm - and ...

"the two levels of metaphoric interpretation" are what ?

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Old 11-30-2012   #44
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"Cat in the Hat, MYOB!*"
Amen.

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"Simple" and "Simplistic" share the same root word, but are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to understanding some situation.
I applied the term "simplistic" purely to your conclusions about the fall of the Roman, Holy Roman, British, and Soviet empires, and the extent to which those falls were caused by expanded access of populaces to information. I would stand by the observation that both those conclusions and their application to the interface among the US, Muslim Governments, insurgents, and terrorists are simplistic.

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Simple is so very incredibly difficult to get to yet so very easy to apply. So often we reject simple solutions because we fear they are so, well, "simple," that they could not possibly have merit. So we instead embrace confused, complex and complicated approaches, because if anything is so hard it must be worthwhile, and if I am not producing the results I intended, that is to be expected, after all, this is "complex."
I've nothing against simple solutions, but they have to presented in clear and specific terms to be implemented. I note that your pescriptions are often cast in extremely general terms.

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As to AQ, I don't overrate AQ, but certainly our approach to AQ over the past decade-plus holds them in very high esteem. After all, if everything we have so carefully crafted (from our image of ourselves to our goals for the governance of the Middle East, etc) are all falling about our ankles, it must be some very important, very powerful enemy that is causing that to happen. Right? Wrong.

No, I think AQ is largely a joke, but a very dangerous one who will have the last laugh if we do not stop chasing them in such a complex, complicated, confused manner from pillar to post around the country, with Intel leading our strategy, and military leading our foreign policy, and no nation's sovereignty more important than our own fear of this little band of opportunists.
I don't think AQ is a joke at all: people attacking us and killing our people are never a joke. I don't see any evidence that anything is "falling around our ankles" in the Middle East, and to the extent that anything is, that's not a consequence of anything AQ has done.

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We need to strike 80% of the organizations currently on the "terrorist" list off, not add more to. We need to analyze why some group loosely associated with AQ is not part of AQ so the we can address them wisely, not why they are AQ so that we can address them simplistically.
I agree that affiliation to AQ is vastly overestimated and that many organizations described as "AQ linked" probably have little or no impact on us. A better question would be whether any given organization is attacking us or killing our people, or trying to. If they are, that requires a response, whether or not AQ is involved.

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But the Pied Piper is a fairly tale, and so is the idea that ideology causes terrorism and insurgency. Governments cause these conditions and they manifest deep withing broad segments of any given populace.
I'm disturbed by the way "terrorism" and "insurgency" are lumped together here, suggesting that they are the same thing, or inextricably linked, or are products of the same causes. Any such contention would require supporting evidence that is not given here. I'd certainly agree that governments are a leading cause of insurgency, but I think the link that you draw between insurgency and the type of terrorism exemplified by AQ is extremely tenuous and requires far more support than you've provided. It's not enough to say that it is so.

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Governments are the arctic winds blowing down from the north, and insurgent populaces are like large masses of ice that form and break away from the pack to cause trouble. Our COIN and CT approaches go after that aspect of such masses that floats above the surface, and largely ignores the reality that any effort designed to simply shave ice off of the top or to press the entire mass through brute force beneath the surface, out of sight and mind, is a fool's errand. It can produce temporary effects that look like success, but that are very temporary and symptomatic in nature, and that require constant energy to sustain. So the typically fail, unless the warm waters of good governance work to melt and blend that entire mass into the larger sea.
I can see how this analogy applies to insurgency, but I don't see how that needs to concern us: other than the ones we created with our ham-handed regime changes, there's not an insurgency on the planet that requires a major commitment from us. In fact, I think we need to ditch the "COIN"-driven assumption that insurgency is someting that by definition should be countered, and start looking at it as an opportunity.

How this all relates to "terrorism" in the AQ mold is another question entirely, and again the proposed link between insurgency and AQ-style terrorism is in no way clear.

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AQ does not make icebergs, but they work to leverage the destructive energy within and across a sea of such icebergs of popular discontent.
AQ has not successfully leveraged popular discontent with Muslim governments. They've tried, but they've failed. The discontent that they have leveraged stems from broader relations between "the West" and the Islamic world, and the perception that "the West" oppresses Islam. I see no evidence to suggest that the terrorists who struck at the west or the fighters who flocked to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan or the Americans in Iraq were driven by anger at their own governments. Any claim that this was indeed the case needs to be supported with specific evidence and compelling logic. It is not self-evident truth.

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As to Muslim governments being broken, no, we did not "break" them any more than a rich, entitled man "breaks" his children when he allows them to act out with massive unearned wealth with few rules and little consequence for bad behavior. We have manipulated the governance of the region for our own purposes and our actions have indeed allowed many regimes of the region to act with growing impunity toward their own populaces.
This contention seems to me paternalistic to the point of being patronizing. These governments are not our children. Certainly we tried to manipulate them; they also tried to manipulate us. Arguably they were the more successful manipulators. These governments did not require our permission or help to oppress their populaces; they did it on their own and of their own free will. We can't make them stop and we never could. I don't see any evidence that we "enabled" them to oppress or that they would have been any less oppressive if we hadn't been there.

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We did not break this and we cannot fix this. We are, however, the major player in the mix.
I don't think we are or need to be "the major player in the mix".

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We can, however, form a more helpful perspective and be willing to accept that change is happening and that many of these systems will find solutions that work for them that do not necessarily make us happy. It is not about us. We must learn when to simply let people sort things out for themselves, and how to better set red-lines for all parties that work to minimize the violence of change, and how to better mediate from neutral positions, rather than mandate from biased positions we take so often.
I agree for the most part, though I don't think this requires much change: again, these governments do not depend on us for sustenance, we are not keeping them afloat, and we have little or no control over their actions. Setting red lines for all or any parties is something I'm less comfortable with: we have no business setting red lines in the internal affairs of other countries and there's no point at all in setting red lines you're not able or willing to enforce.

It is not for us to mandate, nor do we do so. Neither is mediation any of our business, unless it is requested by all parties to a given conflict. Trying to impose ourselves as a mediator or as self-appointed spokesperson for any group is an excellent and dramatic way to self-destruct.

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So, yes, simple is hard. But it is my goal. But what I offer may not be quite to simple yet, I assure you, it is not simplistic.
Mind our own business to the greatest possible extent. Do not unilaterally interfere in the internal affairs of others. Kill those who attack us.

What could be simpler?
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Old 11-30-2012   #45
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So, what, pray tell, is a "terrorist" organization?

Terrorism is, after all, merely a tactic. Many insurgents use terrorist tactics. Many governments (to include our own) use terrorist tactics. Many non-state actors with broad political agendas, such as AQ, use terrorist tactics.

Frankly it is a label that bundles all manner of actors based upon a particular tactical approach. I don't find that very helpful, as it does not create a category that frames or suggests a particular family of solution to apply.

Which leads to "counter-terrorism," which equally is a little more than a commitment to seek to disrupt, defeat, deny, etc those individuals and organizations that employ terrorist tactics. It is very symptomatic in nature, and as such does not much consider WHY some organization or individual is acting out, or why they have come to a position where they believe terrorist tactics are their best hope for achieving their goals.

AQ is actually more accurately a non-state political action group that operates outside the rule of law to conduct unconventional warfare to leverage the insurgent populaces of a wide range of primarily Muslim states, employing both guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, to force change upon the governments of those states and their foreign allies.

This cannot be well addressed by "counter-terrorism." Nor can this be well addressed by the slightly broader concept of "combating-terrorism." What I have long argued is that we we really need is a much broader, more holistic construct of "counter-unconventional warfare." This gets us past an excessive focus on the tactics employed, and instead forces us to think in the context of the actual operations being waged. Much of our jousting in the "3rd world" with the Soviets during the Cold War was essentially counter UW. We did not fly drones to Moscow and attempt to kill soviet leaders with missiles. But we fly drones in the sovereign airspace of many countries where AQ and nationalist insurgents operate and attempt to kill them. I find this odd at best.

But the energy source of any successful UW campaign is an insurgent populace. One cannot go to a stable, satisfied populace and create an insurgency. One can, however, go to place where such conditions are strong, but suppressed, and employ ideology, motivation, arms, leadership, funding, etc to move such a populace to action.

Che Guevara did not understand this fundamental truth of UW. He wanted to ignite a flame of insurgency that would spread and envelope all of South America. He looked at his map and picked a country in the middle of the continent and decided to light his fire there. So he went to Bolivia. But Bolivia had already had a revolution and much of the latent insurgent energy of the populace there was already released. He found few recruits and no sanctuary among the people. He was in short order hunted down and killed. He failed because he did not understand UW and the necessity for conditions of insurgency to fuel any such movement. AQ does not make that mistake, or perhaps they do not understand either, but the fact is there are so many populaces across so many countries in the Middle East with high conditions of insurgency that they cannot hardly help but finding fertile ground for their operations.

If not AQ, it would be someone else. They exploit the opportunity, they do not create the opportunity. I suspect this is why AQ has never resonated nearly as well among the Muslim populaces of the Asia-Pacific Region as they have in those areas that have not had the political revolutions yet such as have occurred there. As you well know, things are not perfect in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia, or the Philippines - but these people and these nations have already thrown off the major aspects of external, illegitimate manipulation and are working toward their own destiny. Small groups and small numbers of individuals are open to help from groups such as AQ, but nearly so much as in the greater Middle East.

This is political. There are simple, fundamental aspects of human nature that provide a framework for understanding these problems. Each is unique in its details, but all are similar in their fundamentals.
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Last edited by Bob's World; 11-30-2012 at 02:58 AM.
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Old 11-30-2012   #46
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"the two levels of metaphoric interpretation" are what ?

Regards

Mike
Level 1: King Yertle is the US (post Truman Doctrine), the Pond is the Earth and the other turtles are the various countries in the world.
Level 2: Yertle is the tyrannical leader of any country/organization with grandiose ambitions, the pond is just that country/organization while the other turtles are various segments of the dominated populace/workforce/organizational membership.
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Old 11-30-2012   #47
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Terrorism is, after all, merely a tactic.
I'm not so sure that terrorism is always a tactic. Saying so is equivalent to saying that terror activities are being used as a means to some end. I suspect that some terrorist acts are conducted as ends in themselves. I am thinking primarily of some of the things done by so-called anarchists in the later 19th Century, but Timothy McVeigh's exploit in OKC might also fit in that category.
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Which leads to "counter-terrorism," which equally is a little more than a commitment to seek to disrupt, defeat, deny, etc those individuals and organizations that employ terrorist tactics. It is very symptomatic in nature, and as such does not much consider WHY some organization or individual is acting out, or why they have come to a position where they believe terrorist tactics are their best hope for achieving their goals.
The above categorization of counter terrrorism seems rather shallow. I see two aspects to counter terrorism. The first includes those actions one might take to prevent terrorist activity. These are what, for example, the Counter IED community calls actions to the left of the boom. Seeking to answer Bob's "why" question above, rightly belongs in this part of counterterrorism. I submit demotivating someone from the commission of terrorist acts is rather hard without knowing what is motivating him or her to engage in them in the first place.
The second aspect of counter terrorism is remediation--restoring order/cleaning up the mess after the terrorist action has occurred. How one does this may well fuel further terrorism. Knocking down the hovel next to the big hole left by the IED in the process of filling the hole, enforcing a curfew to "keep people safe" until we find the terrorists, or just leaving the restoration to the locals' own devices are probably not conducive to achieving the sort of results that the first aspect of counter terrorism is attempting to achieve.
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Old 11-30-2012   #48
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I remain unconvinced that terrorism is "merely" a tactic. As WM points out, there are far too many cases where terrorism is clearly an end and not a mean. Also, there are too many examples of groups that have over time spun into a cycle of violence where the attack is the end in and of itself and the why of the attack no longer has any real meaning.
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Old 11-30-2012   #49
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Default SOCOM Seeks Bigger Role in Conflict Prevention

An article based on 2iC SOCOM's presentation to an open conference, amidst the "we need more" approach there is some balance by a CFR expert:
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Successful employment of the indirect approach requires both proactive involvement and patience for the effort to produce results. It requires placing SOF teams out in troubled regions for extended periods so they can gain familiarity, knowledge and relationships and then begin to execute solutions with the resident partners...This runs counter to a common tendency to wait until crises are full blown and action is imperative.
Link:http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.o...st.aspx?ID=983
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Old 12-01-2012   #50
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Which leads to "counter-terrorism," which equally is a little more than a commitment to seek to disrupt, defeat, deny, etc those individuals and organizations that employ terrorist tactics. It is very symptomatic in nature, and as such does not much consider WHY some organization or individual is acting out, or why they have come to a position where they believe terrorist tactics are their best hope for achieving their goals.
Disrupt, defeat, and deny is essential. It may not be the only the only thing that's essential, but it's certainly essential. That doesn't mean you don't have to look at and address the "why", it just means that when someone is actively trying to kill you or your people you stop them first and then worry about why.

One of the problems with efforts to identify and address causes is that they are very much open to erroneous interpretations of causes. One trend we often notice in the US is the tendency to assume that everything happens because of us, and that everyone else simply reacts... thus if AQ wants to kill us that must be a "backlash" against something we did to them, and we can make them stop by not doing whatever that was. I think we underestimate the extent to which AQ is proactive, acting not in response to situations but in an attempt to initiate conditions they believe will be conducive to their growth.

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AQ is actually more accurately a non-state political action group that operates outside the rule of law to conduct unconventional warfare to leverage the insurgent populaces of a wide range of primarily Muslim states, employing both guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, to force change upon the governments of those states and their foreign allies.
Again we have the contention that AQ primarily exploits an "insurgency" dynamic (built around relationships between Muslim governments and the populaces they govern) rather than a wider perception of direct occupation of Muslim land and direct oppression of Muslims by the West. This contention could use less repetition and more supporting evidence, as it is anything but self-evident.


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We did not fly drones to Moscow and attempt to kill soviet leaders with missiles. But we fly drones in the sovereign airspace of many countries where AQ and nationalist insurgents operate and attempt to kill them. I find this odd at best.
Not odd at all. By the time we had effective drones the Soviet Union no longer existed... and there was always that MAD thing going on.

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But the energy source of any successful UW campaign is an insurgent populace. One cannot go to a stable, satisfied populace and create an insurgency. One can, however, go to place where such conditions are strong, but suppressed, and employ ideology, motivation, arms, leadership, funding, etc to move such a populace to action.
I don't see the relevance of this, since AQ is not creating an insurgency or moving a populace to action.

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I suspect this is why AQ has never resonated nearly as well among the Muslim populaces of the Asia-Pacific Region as they have in those areas that have not had the political revolutions yet such as have occurred there. As you well know, things are not perfect in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia, or the Philippines - but these people and these nations have already thrown off the major aspects of external, illegitimate manipulation and are working toward their own destiny. Small groups and small numbers of individuals are open to help from groups such as AQ, but nearly so much as in the greater Middle East.
That's certainly not true in, say, The Philippines or Thailand, where "external, illegitimate manipulation" by national governments that Muslim minorities do not accept is alive and well. The limited appeal of AQ in these ideological markets stems more from AQ's preoccupation with pan-Islamic issues and foreign occupations that seem very remote in these parts: Southeast Asian Muslims are for the most part more concerned with their own domestic issues than with what's going in the Middle East or South Asia.

The assumption that those who support AQ do so because they want to change their own governments is inherently suspect and needs to be supported by evidence and reasoning. It's not credible simply because it's said to be so.
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Old 12-01-2012   #51
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I've said elsewhere that I have a "tortoise mind".

Here is where I got in considering your turtle story (before asking the question you answered).

OK, Yertle ends up in the mud; so, that's OK with Mack who got all the turtles off his back. But, what about all them other turtles - who also ended up in the mud ? Some of them undoubtedly would blame Mack for their now wet and muddy existence - he (that is, his burp) being the proximate physical cause of their condition. Some others of them, looking at the moral aspect, would blame Yertle, the prime mover of the turtle pile for his benefit. My conclusion: both Mack and Yertle ended up as turtle soup after the respective groups of muddy turtles got done with them. Sort of the Louis XVI and Louis St.-Just of their little turtle world.

You know from our other conversations that I don't have a philosophical mind. Now, you know that I don't have a metaphorical mind, either.

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PS: Not being a complete Luddite, I did order Philosophical Investigations (this is the 2009 Hacker-Schulte German-English version of 592 pp.) - and, to fill out my collection of Works by Whackos, The Everett Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: Collected Works 1955-1980 with Commentary ("Many Worlds" etc.).
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Old 12-01-2012   #52
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I think the discussion on getting to a more sensible perspective on terrorism and counterterroism is an important one.

Just as it is important to understand what is insurgency, role of the energy source of the nature of the relationship between those who govern and those who are governed, as well as the role of those external to those dynamics (such as AQ today) who seek to leverage that energy to their own ends.

Dayuhan mentions that there are many Muslim populaces who still have high levels of this "energy," or what I call conditions of insurgency across the Pacific. That is very true and I am very encouraged by recent actions by the government of the Philippines to change their approach in their Bangsamoro program to better address those conditions. But AQ's agents have not had much success with their UW campaign in the Pacific. Indonesia and Malaysia are primarily Muslim, and both of those countries have, since addressing the colonial problem, been largely stable. Are these works in progress? Absolutely, revolution brings change, but typically also brings ineffective and chaotic government. These things take time. I don't think they are very vulnerable to AQ exploitation, nor do I think they need much US help in dealing with the few agents of AQ that do show up, or those small internal movements who still act out within their current systems. Less is more. We need to focus, as we have in the Philippines, on respecting host nation sovereignty and helping to build partner professionalism, rather than capacity.

And while I appreciate that there are some few individuals over the course of history who have created terror for terror's sake, that certainly does not apply to what governments called the "Anarchist" movement of the last century. That was not much different than what is going on now. A movement intended to force government and society to evolve to change with the tremendous changes that were occurring with the rise of the industrial age and electronic communications. Old systems of entitlement were being challenged to make room for rising classes. Did a few wingnuts join the cause? Certainly. I am sure there are a few wingnuts sitting around AQ campfires as well.

But by and large, in the middle of the bell curve, terror is a tactic. Which leads us to CT. We keep trying to expand CT to make it encompass every aspect of the current terrorist problem. In some ways its just a name, so why worry if so many activities that have very little to do with the tactic being countered are bundled together.

For me this is one of those important nuance issues. CT is threat centric. So inevitably when one bundles activities under a CT banner they all have an ultimate purpose of making some particular threat go away. I think that is far too symptomatic, and results in an endless series of short-sighted tactical approaches, driven by intel and led by the threat. I believe we are better served by keeping CT narrowly defined, and then coming up with a better name for a more holistic approach that CT would be a mere sub-set of.

Not only is CT far too symptomatic and threat focused, it also leads us too easily down the slippery slope of getting into actions of questionable legitimacy that are very abusive of the sovereignty of the nations where these CT activities take place. When one appreciates that in most of these places what we are calling "terrorists" is typically 8 parts nationalist insurgent movements and perhaps 2 parts external non-state UW actor one gets to why a different framework is so important. CT approaches tend to conflate those all as one "terrorist" problem, as that facilitates easier targeting. Far better if we take approaches that force is to break these organizations down by the nature of their relationships and by their primary purposes for action, rather than conflate them by their shared tactics, associations and ideology. Once we do that we can begin to out compete AQ for influence with the populace groups these insurgents emerge from, and also get to approaches with the governments involved that support, rather than degrade, perceptions of sovereignty and legitimacy. The lead should be policy and diplomatic approaches designed to help convince key partners they are better served by engaging their populaces more professionally, and by creating vehicles to give the people more effective ways to legally address their grievances within the context of their own cultures. This may mean that some in power will be legally replaced with new leaders, and it will certainly mean that many in power will need to evolve to stay in power.

Or we can just do CT to keep those pesky people in check and sustain governments we think will best support our interests. I don't recommend this. Conditions of insurgency grow for a reason. Insurgent organizations form and act out for a reason. Organizations with regional agendas form and wage UW for a reason. We need to focus more on understanding what those reasons are and how to best encourage or assist as necessary those governments in addressing those reasons. Currently we apply CT, and we attack the symptoms.
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Old 12-01-2012   #53
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I think the discussion on getting to a more sensible perspective on terrorism and counterterroism is an important one.
I think the discussion is going around in a rather unproductive circle.

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Just as it is important to understand what is insurgency, role of the energy source of the nature of the relationship between those who govern and those who are governed, as well as the role of those external to those dynamics (such as AQ today) who seek to leverage that energy to their own ends.
The problem with this formulation is that AQ is not leveraging "insurgency" at all, if we define insurgency as conflict between governments and the populaces they govern. They've tried, but they've failed. What AQ does leverage effectively is a widespread (but not universal) perception of Western oppression among Muslims, particularly resentment toward direct "infidel" occupation of Muslim countries. When deprived of this stimulus - such as after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan - AQ's relevance and support decline rapidly. Paradoxically, this is when they are most dangerous: because they need foreign intervention to survive, they will lash out and attack in hopes of provoking that intervention and restoring their relevance. That's no reason to give them what they want.

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Dayuhan mentions that there are many Muslim populaces who still have high levels of this "energy," or what I call conditions of insurgency across the Pacific. That is very true and I am very encouraged by recent actions by the government of the Philippines to change their approach in their Bangsamoro program to better address those conditions. But AQ's agents have not had much success with their UW campaign in the Pacific. Indonesia and Malaysia are primarily Muslim, and both of those countries have, since addressing the colonial problem, been largely stable. Are these works in progress? Absolutely, revolution brings change, but typically also brings ineffective and chaotic government. These things take time. I don't think they are very vulnerable to AQ exploitation, nor do I think they need much US help in dealing with the few agents of AQ that do show up, or those small internal movements who still act out within their current systems. Less is more. We need to focus, as we have in the Philippines, on respecting host nation sovereignty and helping to build partner professionalism, rather than capacity.
SE Asian Islamic insurgent/separatist movements are generally not that susceptible to AQ manipulation mainly because they and their popular support base are focused on local issues and not really concerned with the pan-Islamic narrative or the perception of general oppression of the ummah that AQ has to sell. There are of course a few exceptions to that rule, and local organizations will cooperate with jihadi groups to the extent they deem convenient, but in any broad scale sense SE Asian Muslims are concerned with local issues and don't particularly care about foreign occupations in Iraq or Afghanistan, about Palestine, etc.

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For me this is one of those important nuance issues. CT is threat centric. So inevitably when one bundles activities under a CT banner they all have an ultimate purpose of making some particular threat go away. I think that is far too symptomatic, and results in an endless series of short-sighted tactical approaches, driven by intel and led by the threat. I believe we are better served by keeping CT narrowly defined, and then coming up with a better name for a more holistic approach that CT would be a mere sub-set of.
I agree that "CT" as we know it now should only be one part of any effort to address terrorism and its underlying issues. It remains an important part, and it's natural that it's the part that will dominate military discourse because it's the part of the program that the military, along with the intel and LE communities, is responsible for implementing. Whatever we think of causes and whatever we can do to alleviate causes, it has to be clear beyond doubt that people who attack us or our allies, plot to attack us, or shelter those who attack us will be subject to direct action, wherever they are. No nation can condone or accept attacks on its territory or citizens, whatever the cause.

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CT approaches tend to conflate those all as one "terrorist" problem, as that facilitates easier targeting. Far better if we take approaches that force is to break these organizations down by the nature of their relationships and by their primary purposes for action, rather than conflate them by their shared tactics, associations and ideology.
To a large extent I agree, but I think your assessment of the "primary purposes for action" is flawed in a way that leads to some very dangerous conclusions. If we assume that AQ draws its sustenance from the relationships between Muslim governments and the populaces they govern, there's a tendency to try to affect causation by trying to influence those relationships. That's both wrong and dangerous: AQ draws its sustenance not from relationships between Muslim Governments and those they govern but from the perceived relationships between the Muslim ummah and the non-Muslim world around it. Trying to interfere in relations between Muslim governments and those they govern will be ineffective and probably disastrous: we have little influence in most of these relationships and we have no credibility as a mediator. Neither populaces nor governments want us involved and trying to push our way into the picture uninvited just reinforces AQ's narrative of Western interference. That doesn't mean engagement is never a good idea, but it should be multilateral whenever possible and it should be as requested by local groups with a credible claim to speak for the people, not initiated by us.

We can effectively deprive AQ of much of their impetus simply by not invading or occupying Muslim territory, and my minimizing our overt interference and military footprint. We have to understand that if we do this we will be attacked: AQ will try to provoke a response that they can manipulate. That doesn't make it any less important. Trying to change the patterns of governance in the Muslim world is both futile and dangerous. We shouldn't obstruct change, and we should work with it as it occurs (as we've been doing) but trying to compete for influence over Muslim populaces or trying to appoint ourselves as a mediator or champion of the populace is going to snap back in our faces in a major way.
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Old 12-02-2012   #54
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Dayuhan

We disagree about the nature of AQ, so we will disagree with how to best deal with AQ and the the problems of governance and instability in the places they operate.

Worth considering is that you subscribe to a position that fits fairly closely with the thinking that has driven US reactions since 9/11. How is that working for us?

I am reminded of a favorite question that Ranger Instructors would pose to Ranger Students who were in the midst of hopelessly mucking up some particular task or mission: "Ranger, are you as F'd up as you want to be"?

Its kind of like "when did you stop beating your wife." There is no good answer. "Yes, Sergeant, I want to be this F'd up"? or "No, sergeant, I want to be even more F'd up"?

I think our current position buys too heavily into the sizzle. I try to focus on the steak. Governments are much more comfortable when they can lay responsibility for these types of problems at the feet of some malign actor, some ideology, or some set of environmental or economic conditions beyond their control - and then simply apply the energy of the state to defeat, deny or disrupt those who act out illegally to operationalize such popular discontent.

But without insurgent populaces who are both very dissatisfied with their own systems of governance, and who equally perceive that external Western influence, money and manipulation is a major factor in why their governance is so out of step - there would be no AQ. Getting rid of AQ without addressing that base of energy will only open the way for the emergence of "AQ 2.0." With this much demand, there will be someone to step up and provide supply. We attack supply, and ignore demand; much as we do with the largely illegal drug-related criminal problems that are also growing beyond our capacity to suppress. Our current approaches are simplistic and will break us.

We need simple approaches that are much more honest about what really fuels these powerful illegal challengers. You don't have to agree with me, but that does not make me wrong. All I know for certain is that the current assessment/approach does not work.

You tend to share the assessment/understanding that has brought us to this place, but argue for different tactics. I don't think new tactics will get us there. We need a new assessment. We need a new understanding. Once we have that, new approaches will present themselves, and they will be far less costly and far less intrusive than the ones of the past decade. I suspect they will be far more productive and much more in line norms of what most humans see as acceptable government action as well.
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Old 12-02-2012   #55
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But without insurgent populaces who are both very dissatisfied with their own systems of governance,
...or maybe rather just with the other guys' leaders being in power and handing the spoils down to their followers.
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Old 12-02-2012   #56
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...or maybe rather just with the other guys' leaders being in power and handing the spoils down to their followers.
Fuchs, revolutionary insurgency does not of necessity bring better governance, more often is simply brings different goverance that is usually far less effective than what existed before.

And, as you note, often the rising power simply falls in on the old system and the only real change is who benefits and who suffers.

All true, yet that in no way undermines my proposition that conditions of insurgency grow when some distinct segment of the overall governed populace comes to perceive the current system as intolerable. Their are many reasons why men fight (most tied to youth and testosterone), but when societies grow restless in this way the most common drivers appear to be those more closely tied to the top of Maslow's hierarchy.
  • They do not perceive the governance to be acting in a manner they deem as appropriate
  • They do not recognize the right of some system of governance to rule or affect them at all
  • They do not feel that they are treated equally as other similarly siuated sub-populaces are
  • They do not feel that they receive justice under the rule of law as it is applied to them
  • And perhaps most importantly, they do not perceive themselves to have trusted, certain, and legal means consistent with their culture to affect governance driving the perceptions listed above.

I bundle all of this up as "poor governance" (not to be confused with similar terms often used in COIN theory to describe what is more accurately ineffective governance). Effectiveness is nice and can be measured by anyone, but goodness is what fosters natural stability and can only be measured by those subject to said governance.

But as you point out, often when such peceptions drive a populace to act, when they prevail they too often simply flip the table and become equally oppressive (and the cycle begins anew). King George is on record for his amazement that George Washington would not accept the role of "King." Noting that if he turned that down that he was "truly the greatest man of all."
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"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)

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Old 12-02-2012   #57
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All true, yet that in no way undermines my proposition that conditions of insurgency grow when some distinct segment of the overall governed populace comes to perceive the current system as intolerable.
"Government", not "system".

There's no reason to see a cure in democracy if the point of the insurgents is that they want some of their own ideologues in power who wouldn't win democratically.
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Old 12-02-2012   #58
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"Government", not "system".

There's no reason to see a cure in democracy if the point of the insurgents is that they want some of their own ideologues in power who wouldn't win democratically.
"Democracy" is only a cure if democracy is what the populace in question sees as appropriate in the context of their culture.

But democracy has many shades and is a term that gets tossed around pretty loosely. We certainly don't have anything close to pure democracy in the US.

The final bullet that I mention is perhaps the essence of "democracy." How a particular society secures and nurtures this line of legal feedback from those who are governed to those who govern is up to them. When some external power comes in and thinks they have the one perfect way to do this and then seeks to impose that system on others, one can almost guarantee they are wrong. Such systems would be de facto illegitimate and a violation of sovereignty. That is a deep hole to crawl out of, regardless of how bad the old system was, or how good you think your new system is.

That is the hole we dug in Iraq and Afghanistan. Easy to dig, hard to crawl out of.
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"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)
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Old 12-02-2012   #59
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Posted by Bob

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All true, yet that in no way undermines my proposition that conditions of insurgency grow when some distinct segment of the overall governed populace comes to perceive the current system as intolerable. Their are many reasons why men fight (most tied to youth and testosterone), but when societies grow restless in this way the most common drivers appear to be those more closely tied to the top of Maslow's hierarchy.
They do not perceive the governance to be acting in a manner they deem as appropriate
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And perhaps most importantly, they do not perceive themselves to have trusted, certain, and legal means consistent with their culture to affect governance driving the perceptions listed above.

I bundle all of this up as "poor governance"
Bob,

Your argument is borderline irrational, but most importantly it is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. First, many in our government have been pushing the same view for years and our current strategy is based on reforming governments (it isn't working). Second, you tend to identify every insurgent as legitimate and automatically default to finding the State government illegitimate which is a serious bias on your part. Poor governance really? When a minority of Islamists want to impose Shari'a law upon all and the government fights to defeat their attempt to subject the people to their extreme views this is poor governance? Really? A government fights against a communist insurgency which only has 15% of populace supporting it, and their goal is suppress the people much more than the current government, yet any effort by the government to defeat them is illegitimate, because only the insurgents are legitimate? Really?

Government's have every right and obligation to defend the status quo. In some situations we support them, in others we support the insurgents (based on our interests), and in most cases we remain neutral (or should). As Dayuhan correctly points out we're not going to fix other people's government's and even if we did AQ would still survive, so as a core of our strategy to defend the U.S. fixing governments to defeat AQ won't work and it is too expensive to sustain, so it isn't feasible to begin with.

While I don't concur with Dayuhan's assessment of AQ, it is still very much alive and it is growing in many parts of the world, his overall approach to dealing with it is one of the most level headed I have seen (it is not the approach we're following now, we're following Bob's approach of trying to fix foreign governments and it isn't work well for us)

Posted by Dayuhan

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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.
Quote:
2. Attack effectively. Find and eliminate the key individuals on the operational and the funding/support side by whatever means work.
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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.
Solid points have been ignored since 9/11, but there are at least to categories of starving them. The psychological you address above, and then the financial. They won't conduct effective transnational terrorist attacks without adequate resources.

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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
.

The fact that we're pushing to the point of imposing our values on other States and their societies is what is creating the backlash against us in many cases. It provides propaganda for AQ, and for the emergent AQ 2.0 and 3.0 and all their step children. If our goal is to reform the world, that won't be done peacefully or within a budget we can afford.
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Old 12-02-2012   #60
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Bill, pray tell, when have I EVER said the US needs to "fix" the governance of others?

I merely point out the broken part we should be concerned about. Governments and their populaces must make these repairs for themselves. But most government have no interest in making such repairs when they can simply play the "might makes right" card and suppress the illegal actors. As you say, governments have the right to do this. Such is sovereignty. But equally, when the people under such a sovereign system find it to be intolerable they too have both the right and the duty to rise up and challenge it.

You may think the principles contained in our Declaration of Independence to be uniquely American, or concepts that have become somehow quaint or irrelevant with time. America and all we think we stand for is sadly doomed when that becomes the case. If a man or a nation is not what they proclaim to be, then they are little or nothing of value at all.

And your example of Communism is "borderline irrational" as well.

Do you think the people Russia looked to Communism because they wanted to be communists or because they wanted to get rid of the Tsar?

Do you think the people of China looked to Communist because they wanted to be communists or because they wanted to be free of external Colonial powers and their puppet regime?

Do you think the people of Vietnam, Malaya, etc, etc turned to communism because they wanted to be communist or because they wanted to be free of Western Colonial powers and their puppet regimes??

Again, I cannot emphasize enough, revolution does not happen to bring something new, it happens because their is tremendous energy within a significant segment of the populace to remove something that exists and is deemed intolerable.

Do governments have the right to simply ignore the reasonable concerns of their evolving populaces and enforce the rule of law in a war-like way to sustain the status quo? Certainly. But the US and our interests are not well served by dedicating our reputation, our treasure and the blood of our young men and women to such efforts.

Does Dayuhan suggest effective ways to kill the current crop of complainants? Sure. No rocket science there. That may well reduce a particular threat in a particular place for a short period of time. Congratulations. Mark all your tactical metrics Green, give yourself a top block ORE and go home. But such tactical successes are growing the deep roots of strategic failure. Such "successes" validate the anti-American message of organizations such as AQ, and serve to extend the reign of governments no longer wanted by their own people in their current form. It allows such governments to treat their people with impunity and to rely for their sovereignty upon the protection of the US rather than upon the consent of those they govern.

That is not who we are Bill. And those who rationalize such poor behavior in the name of national security are, IMO, dangerously wrong. Wrong about who we are, wrong about how we best secure our interests, wrong about why such conflicts occur and how to resolve them, and wrong about what the long-term results of this reactionary abuse of the sovereignty of so many others in the name of preserving the sovereignty of ourself will bring.

We cannot fix others. We cannot resolve their insurgencies or repair their relationships with their own people. This they must do on their own. But we can work across the DIME spectrum in a neutral way in those few places that are actually critical to our interests to force governments to listen and to help keep violence (state or insurgent) within the bounds of clear red lines.

What you suggest is little different than practices of the last century to take out Union organizers, and to send pipe-swinging goons into a mass of striking workers. To me, that is irrational. And not in a borderline sort of way.
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"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)

Last edited by Bob's World; 12-02-2012 at 07:41 PM.
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