Bright Future: A Counter-Terrorism Strategy
How do we beat this?
The motto of my platoon at Infantry Officer's Basic Course (IOBC) was "Mix Metal and Meat". CPT Migone was our platoon tactical officer. He was this crazy ex-SF medic who was a bit of a maverick, and he was very insistent that our jobs as infantry officers was going to be killing people, blowing shit up, and breaking things. Maximum destruction.
At best, I was an average infantry officer, but I was branched detailed intelligence which meant that I only had to serve as an infantry guy for a couple years. Then I switched over to intelligence, and discovered that I was pretty good at it. And I am damn good at leveraging intelligence assets to maximize destruction. I can "decide, detect, and deliver" on your ass with the best of them. I'm going to figure out a way to find you, and then some of my buddies who were better than average infantry-types are going to pay you a visit in the middle of the night. A platoon of screaming CPT Migone's kicking in your door. Game over.
However, in the GWOT, blowing shit up and breaking things has its limits. We have to be smart as well as hard. Destruction only gets you part of the way to victory. So how to do we win if mixing metal and meat can't be our only course of action?
A HUMINT'er buddy of mine who works in the Pentagon has some great ideas about how to win the counter terrorism fight. He got permission from his bosses to publish this unclassified briefing that he came up with that summarizes some of his ideas. He was gracious enough to let me post the brief. I've included his slides and notes. My comments will appear after the show.
So here is some death by power point:
This presentation is intended to demonstrate how we can win the GWOT and what we must change to ensure that we win.
Short answers: yes - no - yes
Army CI and the entire DoD cannot address all the root problems of terror. However, we need to be aware of them and work together with others who can address root problems outside the DoD's sphere of influence.
In March 2005, Richard Clarke, former Counterterrorism advisor to the National Security Council, described the Muslim terrorist population as existing in concentric circles. He estimated the inner most circle of hard core terrorists members of al-Qaeda, contained not more than approximately 400 to 600 members. The next circle included who Clarke referred to as the “jihadists” contained approximately 50,000 to 200,000 members, these are people who "believe in their perverted views of Islam and are willing to die for it."
In the third circle are the millions of supporters of the jihadists who are found giving money to aid their activities. The fourth and outer circle is the rest of the Islamic world, a billion or more people who oppose the jihadist movement. Ultimately, Clarke believes that the way to begin to bring an end to terrorism is through communicating a different set of values to those within the third circle. This is probably a correct assessment and key to our success in the GWOT.
The Washington Post, 27 April 2005, front page article, U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise in Terrorism, reported the State Department has decided not to make public the figures documenting the upswing in deadly attacks. The Post reports the number of significant attacks, including the Breslan, Russia school massacre, grew from 175 in 2003 to about 655 in 2004. Terrorist incidents in Iraq rose from 22 in 2003 to 198 in 2004.
It would probably take divine intervention to stop a suicide bomber who has been dispatched on his mission of death. Other than that, we can possibly intervene to some extent at all other points in the terrorist operational cycle. We cannot expect to conduct such interventions without coordination with other government agencies, allies, and possibly non-government organizations. We should focus our efforts on the large terrorist support base, Clarke's third ring, to interrupt recruiting, financing, and operational support activities.
Our intervention into the terrorist operational cycle should consider all needs but we should focus on the needs 3 through 5 because this is where we can have the greatest impact. Many terrorists come from middle-class or even affluent families thus fulfilling the first group of needs. Most terrorist come from fairly stable (albeit repressive) societies and strong families thus fulfilling need group two and some of group three. The problems of low self-esteem individually and as a group along with diminishing expectations and loss of opportunities for personal success, leads to the anger and hostility that defines the lack in need groups four and five. We can help change the perceptions of terrorist supporters in Clarke's third ring in regards to need groups four and five.
A Muslim mother will not encourage her child to become a suicide bomber if that mother has a vision of a bright future for that child.
A Muslim youth will not be attracted to terrorist groups if that youth enjoys sufficient self-esteem, has a good job, and is achieving his expectations in life.
We have few expert linguists and practically no cultural experts who can help us understand the root motivation of the terrorists.
The World Bank has determined that the education of women and girls is a decisive factor in improving a region's economy and stability.
Excluding vast regions of the world from gaining the prosperity that they see on TV and the Internet increases tensions.
We believe we are making progress towards acceptance and respect of Muslims but we still need to convince the Muslim world of our progress.
Open communication with the Muslim world is critical to winning the GWOT but will also be among the most difficult challenges based on various barriers seen on the roots slide, e.g. cultural, religious, language, history, etc. We may want to talk to the people in the third ring of moderate terrorist supporters but their mullah, sheik, or government may not permit that communication.
As long as we treat the Palestinians differently than we treat Israel we will have a problem in that region. If we say we promote democracy and yet support autocratic Islamic governments we are seen as hypocrites.
We need to get ahead of the terrorist operational cycle.
We need to focus on achieving world peace not increasing military superiority.
We need to address those areas first that will remove the moderate sympathizers from the terrorist support base in the third ring, then work on co-opting the radical supporters in the second ring, and as a final step, open a channel for rehabilitating terrorists. The final step might not be possible.
Carl von Clausewitz's On War makes it emphatically clear that we must understand the nature of the conflict in which we are engaged. At the moment, as a nation, we neither understand the conflict, nor do we understand the motivation or goals of those Islamist terrorists who threaten us.
"Find them and kill them"has not worked very well. We need to focus on the root causes of the terrorists' and their support groups' dissatisfaction with their situation and try to determine whether we can alleviate the pressure points that drives the new recruits into the clutches of the terrorist groups.
We need to work with all available US organizations, other nations, and international humanitarian aid groups that can help address the root causes of terror.
We need to move the moderate people from ring three to become the new opponents of terrorist jihad in ring four.
As long as the Islamist terrorists believe they are working towards a justified ultimate goal of a better world they will continue to fight. (The Muslim concept of the restoration of the Caliphate equates in some aspects to what Christians might recognize as establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.) If these same terrorists and their supporters are included in the world's functional core as described in Barnett's book, they might lose some of their fervor and become more satisfied with the less than perfect world in which most of us live. Both the Bible and the Koran warn against such religious complacency but a moderate view of God's revelations seems to have worked well in most of the Christian world and will probably work in the Muslim world as well.
Mao taught that insurgents must swim as fish in the sea. Hammes expands on that theme in his description of Fourth Generation Warfare. We need to make that sea smaller and less hospitable for the terrorists by making life better for those who now support the terrorists. Multi-national networking is key to success in this area as elements excluded from the globe's functional societies are drawn into the global effort to make a better world for everyone.
The CLRC appears to be ready to launch as part of DoD's recently announced Defense Language Transformation Road Map.
Key Pentagon decision makers support the idea that DoD anthropologists are critical to our understanding of the cultures that support Islamist terrorists.
For years, the DoD supported a huge Russian language and Soviet Studies program. We need a similar emphasis now on Muslim studies and Arabic, Farsi/Dari, and Turkic languages.
Muslim scholar exchange programs will go a long way to increasing mutual understanding.
The World Bank has several women's educational programs in place but more are needed in specific areas. This might be a tough sell in some societies.
Overstock.com markets various products from cottage industries in Afghanistan and other places in the third world.
If every Muslim youth had free access to the world of ideas made possible by the Internet it would be far more difficult for radical fundamentalists to turn them into terrorists.
The need for linguists has been recognized. To remedy the problem, I propose that we recruit native fluent or near-native linguists and train them to be CI/HUMINT operators and CT analysts, rather than trying to struggle with the futility of turning non-linguists into native speakers.
We have many allies with exceptional capabilities that are willing to help in the GWOT. Yet that help is largely untapped due to the institutional paranoia and xenophobia of the DoD and other government agencies that mark almost every CT document, even things as innocuous as reports concerning obsolete foreign telephone books, SECRET NOFORN.
The underground democratic movements in Iran and Syria should be receiving full US support.
We need to work towards establishing a culture of respect for the law in all areas that support terrorists.
If the Army could control all of its CI/CT efforts from a one-stop-shop perhaps we could get a better handle on what is needed to prosecute the GWOT. Other elements of the Army and then DoD would probably follow suit.
Three and one half years after 9/11 we are still not fully connected throughout the various US agencies with CT responsibilities, our CT collection is haphazard and based on serendipity rather than good planning, our reporting is uneven, and our analysis and data mining efforts still lack the tools needed to succeed. When the next terrorist attack happens, the American public will justifiably want to know why so little progress has been made since 9/11. Why is there no one-stop-shop and critical cross-check analysis for finished intelligence products in the CT community?
Implementing the positive steps outlined in this brief will help win the GWOT.
Okay, some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking that this is just a bunch of touchy-feely bullshit. I disagree. We can't kill everyone. JDAMs are expensive, and I want Zane to grow up in a country with a reasonably solvent government so I think some of these ideas are really worth exploring as policy.
Some things that I think stand out in this brief:
Slide 3, Consider the Roots: Mythology does play a big part in how societies act. Look at the minutemen project on the border. How much of the rugged individualist-Rambo-Chuck Norris Bad 80's movie-bullshit do these guys buy into? Now don't get me wrong. I buy into some of that rugged individualism myself. After all, I am a Texan with a Colt .45 in the nightstand. But, you don't see me packing my bags and heading towards the border.
Slide 7, Terrorists are Humans: Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Let's face it. War makes you feel "self-actualized". Nothing compares to it. Of course, I'd rather be home in front of my computer drinking a cold Shiner Bock, but having a combat patch--even if I was a total REMF--is pretty cool.
I'm a middle class white kid from a middle class family. I have a beautiful wife and baby, a college degree, a nice home, and a good job. I get to participate in my government, exercise my freedom of speech with this blog, and I live in luxury compared to most people in the world. But, I still felt compelled to join the Army and do shit like jump out of perfectly good airplanes.
So how seductive would the idea of being a "Jihadi" be to some kid from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan who doesn't have the same opportunities that I have? He might not have a pot to piss in, but at least he can say that he stood tall and fought the great Satan. Powerful stuff.
Slide 8, Means of Intervention: Open communication with the Muslim world is critical to winning the GWOT but will also be among the most difficult challenges based on various barriers seen on the roots slide, e.g. cultural, religious, language, history, etc. We may want to talk to the people in the third ring of moderate terrorist supporters but their mullah, sheik, or government may not permit that communication.
So how to we communicate openly with the Muslim world? One word: blogs.
Slide 9, Adopt Best Practices (1): We need to address those areas first that will remove the moderate sympathizers from the terrorist support base in the third ring, then work on co-opting the radical supporters in the second ring, and as a final step, open a channel for rehabilitating (emphasis mine) terrorists. The final step might not be possible.
More on that here. At what Hammoud al-Hitar is up to in Yemen is worth following. Bottom line: you can't jail everyone either.
Slide 11, Positive Steps (1): Overstock.com type cottage industries
So I clicked on over to overstock's site, and guess what? They have a page titled worldstock where you can buy stuff from around the world. The is a page for Afghanistan, and its got some pretty cool stuff.
Right now, we are dumping tons of money into eradicating opium in Afghanistan. In the process, we're pissing a bunch of people off. Our track record of eradicating drugs in Latin American ought to clue us in that we need to change tactics. Why is our country not promoting Afghani products in a big way? How much revenue would be generated in the president got up on the bully pulpit and told everyone to go to overstock and buy an Afghani rug? Growing poppies might loose its appeal if you're too busy expanding production in other areas.
Some meaty ideas here to chew on. Thanks to my buddy for letting me post his hard work and deep thoughts.