Tuck into this great bit of analysis in the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review, examining the many vulnerabilities inherent in terrorism. It’s long, yes, but it’s so jam-packed with cool anecdotes you’re not going to mind a bit. Stuff like this:
Michael J. Waller of the Institute of World Politics has rightly called for further use of ridicule in our political warfare. Several cases in counterterrorism come to mind which might support Waller’s approach. Apparently that mysterious and terrifying man Abimael Guzman was somewhat demystified in Peruvian eyes after the release of a single videotape: the great man was caught looking silly, dancing drunkenly, at the wrong kind of “party gathering.” The prospect for undermining a cocky terrorist in Iraq arose in June 2006 with the surfacing of outtakes of footage for an Abu Musab al Zarqawi video. The cutting-room material showed the insurgent fumbling ignorantly with a weapon he was using as a prop in his hagiographical video. Both examples show that limited release of personal details, or description of a particular unsavory episode in the media, or magnification of these through private channels, may damage a leader’s credibility. Quite possibly, ridicule or bad publicity could prod an arrogant terrorist into reckless action, the sort that would blow his cover or reveal something new about his organization.
One fact that was absolutely new to me: back in his home country of Jordan, before he was bitten by the terrorism bug, Zarqawi served time for being a pimp.
The author’s point is in part to suggest how we can better exploit the inherent weakness of the terrorists’ position, but at a more basic level he’s trying to counter the myth of the “invincible terrorist”. They are quite flawed, quite human, and quite vincible:
Relativists do not understand the depths of their error when they pronounce that “terrorism is just a word for violence we don’t like,” or “terrorism is a Westerners’ epithet.” Terrorists are living, breathing men and women using vile but calculated means to make political gains, and it is vital that politicians and academics and police chiefs continue pointing that out. Terror is ugly, making terrorists morally ugly; this ugliness is weakness in the struggle for public opinion. More must be made of that, in the service of truth and of counterterrorism.
Smart stuff, and cautiously encouraging about the future of The War Formerly Known As The Global War on Terror.
RELATED at the Policy Review site is this piece that mentions how Al-Qaeda is in the business of “syndicating” itself, and called it a “giant global think tank, indestructible as the Internet itself”. I thought about that as I read this link from Drudge: Al-Qaeda seeks to expand its operations.
Al-Qaeda is reaching out from its base in Pakistan to turn militant Islamist groups in the Middle East and Africa into franchises charged with intensifying attacks on western targets, according to European officials and terrorism specialists.
The development could see radical groups use al-Qaeda expertise to switch their attention from local targets to western interests in their countries and abroad. “For al-Qaeda, this is a force multiplier,” said a British official who follows terrorism. …
The effort by al-Qaeda to reach out to radical Islamist groups, which is still at an early stage, follows the rebuilding of al-Qaeda’s core in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghan border. … [T]he central organisation appears to have reconstituted around about 20 senior figures in farms and compounds that also act as training camps, western officials say.
“AQ Central” has sophisticated target planners and expertise in poisons and explosives probably unavailable to local groups, officials say.”
Those who can’t kill…teach.