Friday, February 1, 2008

The New War


By Raphael Israeli


Abu-'Ubeid Qurashi, one of the aides of Osama Bin Laden, published after the September 11 Disaster in the Arabic press and in the al-Qa'ida site on Internet, a very stunning article regarding his organization's strategy in its unseemly confrontation with the US and western civilization in general. The article demonstrates that not only do those champions of evil do their home work adequately, and that they are equipped with the requisite patience, sophistication and methodical thinking, the fruits of which we saw in the deadly precision of their operation against the Twin Towers, but that we too have something to learn in our war against terror. For it transpires that the Muslim terrorist organizations which have been waging war against us directly, are inspired by the Qa'ida  war doctrine, and it is not too early to try to comprehend their schemes.


The author, who has obviously  studied the most recent  western research in matters of the future battlefields and war doctrines, has come up with conclusions that send shudders down your spine : first, that the era of massive wars has ended, because the three war models of previous generations have been eroded;  second, the fourth-generation wars of the 21st Century will consist of non-asymmetrical  confrontations between well-armed and well-equipped armies, who have a turf, a way of life and material interests to defend, and therefore are clumsy; and small groups armed with light weaponry only, who have no permanent bases and are on the move at all times. Thirdly, in these wars, the main target is not the armed forces, but civil society that has to be submitted to harassment and terror to the point of detaching it from the army that fights in its defense; and fourthly, television is more important than armored divisions in the battlefield.


This war doctrine lay in the gray zone between war and peace. Namely those who initiate this kind of war, e.g. by wanton terrorism, would not declare it openly, and would leave it to the defendants to announce war and thereby become the "aggressors". They themselves would create atrocities that are sure to attract the attention of Television so as to strike fear in the heart of the enemy, and retreat to their bases. But when the victim strikes back in self-defense, television can again be counted on to show the "abuses" of the "aggressor" and gain sympathy for the cause of the terrorists.  On television, the huge armies which crash everything on their path will always look worse that the "poor", "frustrated" "freedom fighters" who are "oppressed" and "persecuted" by far superior troops.


Thus, the author could show that small groups of poorly equipped Mujahideen have been able throughout the past two decades to defeat super- and lesser powers: the Soviets in Afghanistan, the US in Somalia, Russia in Chechniya and Israeli in Lebanon.. According to this analysis, the three major components of modern warfare are : early warning, the ability to strike preventively and deterrence, and these were exactly the elements that were paralyzed by al-Qa'ida on 11 September. As for the early warning, the writer claims that they have achieved a strategic surprise, in spite of American technology, on the scale of Pearl Harbor, the Nazi attack against the Soviet Union, the assault on the Cole in Aden and the Suez crossing in the Yom Kippur War. Therefore, the terrorists could deliver that deadly blow on September 11, and levy on the Americans a very heavy economic and psychological price.


The ability to deliver a preventive strike is linked, in the mind of the author to the issue of early warning, because when the latter fails, then a preventive strike becomes irrelevant,. But even if it had worked, there would be no one available to strike, as the terrorists are small, hidden and mobile. And finally – deterrence totally collapses in the face of the asymmetry between an institutionalized state which  entertains life and a desire to live and prosper, and a group of Mujahideen who is indifferent to life, and indeed desirous to perish in the Path of Allah and attain the delights of Paradise. Thus, since nothing can deter them, they can always determine, against all odds, when, where ,how,  what , and whom to strike, without fearing anyone or anything.


It is harrowing to reflect on how applicable is this doctrine in our daily lives here, not only by the Hizbullah in Lebanon, who is linked to the Qa'ida, not only ideologically, and has had some successes, but has also exported this doctrine to the Muslim terrorist movements in the Palestinian Territories, such as the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Moreover, "secular" organizations such as the Tanzim and the Aqsa Shahids, have been converted to these tactics, once Arafat's call for martyrdom, with himself at the helm, has become the favorite form of struggle against Israel.


There is, however, a way to  counter every deed or doctrine, with a view of reducing its effect , immunize our society from its deadly threat and eliminate the terror it imposes on us. For example, if they mean to detach our society from our armed forces, something that they have been partly successful in inoculating into our protest movements, maybe it is time for these elements to wake up as they realize that they have been unwittingly used by our enemies to attain their ends, to dismantle our national unity and incite us against our government and to play into the hands of their subversive doctrine. Or, if television is a declared means of discredit Israel, why can't we imitate the Americans in Afghanistan and the British in the Falklands and bloc the way of the media into the battlefield until the end of hostilities? Maybe it is better for our image  to be accused of obstructing the media than let them document the asymmetry between us and the  Palestinians in the field.


And if  terrorism has adopted the recourse of fighting against us by martyrdom, because there is arguably nothing to be done against "suicide-bombers", each of whom can terrorize and paralyze an entire public,  then we have to demonstrate, like President Bush, that we are facing not a war against individuals, who are desirous to die, and whom we cannot bring to justice when they succeed in their task, but against those who dispatch them, arm them, indoctrinate them, support them and finance them, and that as long as we keep them on the run, they will be less able to concoct and carry out their dark and cruel schemes against us.


Raphael Israeli


The author is a professor of Islam and Middle East at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Anonymous said...

Several Observations:
* The war is against Islamic Extremism - the Palestinians are just a convenient situation for which the extremist can take advantage. Islam is at war with the world.
* Stay the course (or, more correctly, return to the course) on tagging the supporters, not just the doers.
* Take the war to the terrorist. They believe they have little to lose, but they really have a lot to lose. Moslems are big on family. Many suicide-bombers volunteer in part to bring money to their families. It's simple - covertly kill each identified terrorist's extended family. It's a tremendous deterrent and it's always worked for the Russians.

There is only paralysis when one is unwilling to analyze the true options available and then doesn't have the stomach to take advantage of the best options.

Anonymous said...

Why waste ammo on extended families? If it's a war against Islamic extremists, some bullets and bombs dipped in a pork stew ought to do it, no?

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