Monday, December 25, 2006

How To Win The War On Terror

Let's assume that a War on Terror is a good idea. This is a huge assumption. I've written oodles on the idea that declaring "war" on anything is a recipe for utter failure and disaster, for reasons ranging from reification to the government agency budget cycle. The utter success and minimal cost of the War on Drugs certainly shows that "Wars" are a great way to solve embedded sociological problems. NOT.

Now, let's go back to the dictionary.

War. 1 a (1) : a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations (2) : a period of such armed conflict (3) : STATE OF WAR b : the art or science of warfare c (1) obsolete : weapons and equipment for war (2) archaic : soldiers armed and equipped for war . . . 2 a : a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism b : a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end a class war a war against disease

Terror. 1 : a state of intense fear 2 a : one that inspires fear : SCOURGE b : a frightening aspect c : a cause of anxiety : WORRY d : an appalling person or thing; especially : BRAT. . . 4 : violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands insurrection and revolutionary terror

Let's go with War 2(b) and Terror (4) to get a definition for the War on Terror.

"a struggle . . . between opposing forces or for a particular end [against] violent or destructive acts [ . . ] committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands"

I see several ways of achieving this.

1) Identify and destroy the terrorist groups. This implies a working intelligence apparat with the necessary tools (i.e. SpecOps) and national will (i.e. politicians with balls). The latter, America has. The former, we do not.

2) Harden populations and governments so that terrorist demands will be ignored and never granted. This requires that the majority of governments around the world actually be in tune with their populations. There are some problems with this:

a) Most of our "allies" in the developing world are NOT popular governments. The population and the government do NOT agree, and the latter stays in power because of activity by the security forces largely financed by the United States and Europe.

b) Many of the terrorist demands that are made, seem reasonable to a chunk of people around the world. Palestinians, fanatic Muslims, the governments of Syria and Iran, etc. are in agreement with certain terrorist goals.

We must either change their minds, or kill them all. In a "War" there is no middle ground. Direct occupation of Islamic territory is ruinously expensive (c.f. Iraq) and massacre is not only morally bankrupt, but likely to have very negative long-term effects for the so-called victors.

Any weapon can be used in two ways. You can use a weapon to kill and destroy. You can use a weapon to change a person's mind, temporarily, by threatening them with it.

I submit that there is no threat that will permanently change the mind of a religious fanatic.

So if threats do not work, how about bribery?

Don't laugh. Paying people to not commit acts of terror is a popular tradition of the Western liberal democracy. We call it by various names: public education, food stamps, student loans, welfare, the GI Bill, etc. What it is, however, is direct payments to those people who do not presently support themselves by work, that feeds them anyway.

I'm not fond of the idea of paying Danegeld. But this is what we do now when we purchase oil from the Middle East. The problem is that a tithe (literally) of the money that goes into the gas tank of your SUV, pays for the training camps and the IEDS.

Let's do a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. The goal is to consciously and deliberately corrupt the Islamic world. Broadcast not only Voice of America, but the BBC and CNN in hundreds of languages. Put up a few satellites over the Arab nations for the express purpose of giving satellite links to schools, Internet cafes, opposition groups, etc. Air-drop AM and FM hand-crank radios to every village in Asia and Africa. Develop a solid curriculum for education to the American high school level, in all the languages of interest (Arabic, Farsi, etc.) and start broadcasting it for free. Use the Chinese village satellite pack (two solar panels, a deep cycle battery, a TV, satellite dish and receiver, with inverter) and start giving them away. Pop! Instant high school in a box.

Baywatch is already the ideological Marine landing on the beachhead of the Islamist. Crank up the tit power and start broadcasting free hard-core porn, mixed with a bit of street level education about freedom of speech and democracy. Focus at first on Saudi Arabia, where the locals are already so obsessed with porn that they dial up into AOL in the United States over cellular links to evade national-level censorship.

We can't do anything about Ahmed the terrorist. We can do something about Ahmed's brothers and sisters and cousins, and the opinion of his community.

Today: "Celebrate! Ahmed has gloriously given his life to fight the American infidels! He will eat and drink in Paradise! Who will take up the fight against the evil of the Westerners and their heresies?" (Me! Me!)

Tomorrow: "Oh, the poor Ahmed family. They are so ashamed. Ahmed was killed by Americans when he tried to bomb a convoy. He should have known better. The Westerners and their ideas are everywhere. Life in the villages has become so much better since the Americans dug the new well and installed the satellite dish. We see that the Americans are people, just like us."

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