Sunday, September 25, 2005

Looking at Modern Warfare and Anti-Terrorist Fighting

One of the things that really bothers me about a broad majority of the anti-War Left is that so few of them have even the most basic understanding of how war is fought. I suspect most still picture it in their heads as two broad lines of men facing each other, shooting, and then rushing each other to whomp heads. Of course, it's nothing like that any more, most of the time.

Today, we are fighting what's called Fourth Generation warfare. Terrorism is the expression of that approach, and the terrorists we face in the Global War on Terror are the New Model Army of our day. One of the hallmarks of this kind of warfare is for the "soldiers" to operate far behind the "lines" of conflict and well within the society they oppose. They seek to bring down from within, rather than break down from without. It's the desire of the Left to want to see these soldiers as "dissidents" rather than the "enemy" that creates problems. The terrorists may be "in" our society but they most definitely are not "of" it.

Part of the problem, for Americans, but part of the solution for the terrorists, is the press and media. An uncritical and relativistic media like we have in the Anglosphere (the English-speaking world of North America, Europe and Australasia; and to a lesser extent in South America and Westernised Asia) does not operate to view the terrorists as an "enemy."

The media, especially the news, sees themselves as detached, as neutral, as "supra-national." That is, above such petty artificialities as nation-states. Hence, the terrorists aren't an enemy, but another group with a gripe against yet another group. In a manner of speaking, the press doesn't plant their flag on American soil, but on the imaginary soil of their own self-designation.

And yet the American press can only operate as they do thanks to the strict and wide-ranging protections of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Let America's press operate with the restrictions of the European press! I can just see the burst blood-vessels when editors in newsrooms across the country are told that -- by law and threat of imprisonment and the shutting down of their business -- they cannot print certain stories simply because some government or police officials say so.

And yet that's how it is in Europe. The British government can issue what's called a "D Certificate" which imposes just those restrictions. Even next door in Canada, the Federal judiciary just this Spring issued a press gag order in the Gomery Commission investigation into public, Federal corruption, on public information being broadcast on private networks and discussed by bureacrats and the press being rebroadcast or re-reported on the national media! It was an American blog which reported the story for them, causing a sensation.

So the press, by virtue of having abandoned its American basis and dependency on the nation-state that sustains it, doesn't report on attacks by Americans against an enemy, nor its victories, but instead reports on the "underdogs" being "brutally assaulted" and sustaining or creating "terrible casualties" by our actions. The American press is an unmoored boat and most Americans sense that pretty clearly.

All this came about from reading a long, long post on the influence of Colonel John Boyd, on the American military. If you've ever heard of or been taught the OODA Cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) in business or the military, that's his creation.

Not sure where my point is, but I just wanted to share all those links. It takes a while to read them all, but they will give you a much clearer idea of what we're doing in the Middle East and why. People who ask why we didn't attack Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq need to read these posts. They don't answer the question directly, but will give you the tools and critical thinking skills to get that answer.

In a severe nutshell: To have attacked Saudi Arabia directly in the wake of 9/11 after smashing Afghanistan would have been to throw our strength against their strength. Yes, they were the source of the ideology, the money and the protection of radical Islamic terrorism. But to have gone directly against them would have been viciously costly and brutal.

Instead, we went at it sideways. We already had a good, ready to go target with Iraq. Saudi Arabia is a narrow monarchial theocracy with a strong military and internal police. Iraq was the most secular Arab government in the area, and for all that the people were oppressed they had good experience with open markets and self-governance, to an extent. (Remember, this is a nutshell.)

Nearly every other government in the area is theocratic as well, and of the majority Shia branch of Islam. In Iraq, the Shia (Shiites in America) are the minority to the Sunni branch which outnumbers them greatly, and to the Kurdish ethnic minority (Turkish peoples). But they have ruled the country in collaboration with the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.

Establishing a secular, representative, possibly even federalist, government in Iraq is a threat to every government in the region. Making it work is even worse. Even if it fails, the results are three new countries, none of which are sympathetic to theocratic rule.

We've seen the results across the Middle East in popular revolts or uprisings against these theocracies. Syria and Lebanon are the brightest examples. Iran is panicked because they are pressured from within by a young majority that seeks to upend the oppressive elder generation of the Islamic Revolution. Now they face external pressures and examples they don't need. (Iraq on one side and Afghanistan on the other.)

Will we have to make long-term investments in the Middle East as we did in Europe after World War II? Yes. It's generally the same principle. We need to defend, prop up and nurture the better states until we break the back of the one we seek. It's more complicated, obviously, since we deal with Saudi Arabia for oil. But high oil prices and the back-to-back hurricanes will help there, oddly enough, by encouraging new drilling and exploration and by making the Alberta oil sands profitable at last. We can enrich Canada while beginning to starve the Saudi monarchy. Faced with saving themselves or profitting the corrupt Saudis, other OPEC (when was the last time you heard them in the press?) nations will abandon them.

That's why I sorta had to laugh when the American press solemnly passed along the Saudi Foreign Minister's warnings about events in Iraq. It was exactly what you'd expect to hear from a threatened nation! And the press, which is overwhelmingly secular or non-religious in American, completely passed over the Shia/Sunni overlay on events in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which deeply inform issues there.

Anyway, long post and more than a bit scattered. I hope there's something useful in it.

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