Monday, May 16, 2005

The "Insurgency"

I am back, not very tanned, but definitely rested and ready. When you're on a sabbatical it is quite odd to first go on a vacation, and then secondly come back from vacation. Except for the absence of gunfire and fish, not a whole lot has really changed!

Thank you to PDS for filling in once again, I enjoyed his post on "Two Architects" and must admit that I have never read any Ayn Rand. Clearly my education has been incomplete, and I will commit here and now to rectifying this flaw. As I read PDS' entry, I couldn't help but feel there is a personal story there regarding our friend and commenter's journey. Any interest in sharing this further with us PDS?

Thank you's also go to the delightful Mrs. P for filling in with her (6:45 in the a. frickin m.!) Saturday morning post. I was glad to see she was well received in the comments section by the regulars, and I'll leave the invite to post open to her in future. Here is where I'll let you in on a little secret. She had been to see U2 on Thursday night and to be honest I was a little concerned that she would post some fawning ode to Bono! Turns out, as usual, I should have known better. Perhaps in the future she can tell the tale of how I abandoned her this past weekend in the midst of the soccer tryout/which team does PD1 join controversy!

Otherwise it is back to the business of doing some consulting, looking around for a job, and trying to educate the great unwashed in the glories of conservatism. In between shootin and fishin this weekend, I was able to do some good thinking on future post topics. My thoughts ranged from Korea, Iraq and Iran, to why liberals are so over wrought with Christian Phobia, to finally why some men insist on using the effeminate "pee".

I'll admit, some drinking may have been involved.

Upon my arrival home, the Sunday version of the Liberal Death Star was on my doorstep with this thought provoking article. I must confess, that as I read Mr. Bennet's piece I began to feel both a sense of intellectual superiority and a certain degree of "I told you so".

The article, "The Mystery of the Insurgency" details the conundrum that many believe is presented by the "insurgents" in Iraq. Mr. Bennet goes to great lengths to point out what is obvious to many of us; the "insurgents" do not appear to be acting in their own rational self interest. To date, they have failed to present a coherent alternative to the democratically elected government in Iraq, they have not put forth a charismatic leader that might attract a following, and their strategy appears to have shifted in recent months to blowing up innocent Iraqi's who otherwise might be convinced to support the "insurgents".

To Mr. Bennet and those quoted in his article, this is a great mystery. Quoted is Anthony James Joes (three first names?) a professor in Philadelphia who says,

"Instead of saying, 'What's the logic here, we don't see it,' you could speculate, there is no logic here,".....the attacks now look like "wanton violence,"......"The insurgents are doing everything wrong now," he said. "Or, anyway, I don't understand why they're doing what they're doing."

Mr. Bennet really doesn't provide any further quotes supporting the idea that the "insurgency" is a mystery, as most of his remaining quotes appear to be providing tactical information on the difficulty of stamping out the insurgency, or historical perspective on what has and has not worked in other campaigns during the last 100 years. For this reason it is hard to tell if this mystery postulate is held by military professionals, or if it results more from the lack of understanding that the media and academics have of military strategy and tactics.

In my view Mr. Bennet's article is indicative of the broad lack of understanding that many in the media have with military operations. The War on Terror has, time and again, shown how this gap in knowledge has lead to erroneous reporting from the region. We all remember how the media insisted that our military would be held back by the "brutal Afghan winter", and then again by the "brutal Iraqi summer". We saw our main reporting networks talk about how poorly the Afghan campaign was going, only days before the fall of the Taliban. In Iraq our media reported that the invasion had bogged down, when in reality they had to hold up because they were in danger of out running their supply lines.

So it comes as little surprise to hear now that the "insurgency" is a great mystery. Allow me to suggest, that perhaps what we have here is not a mystery at all, but another example of misreporting. Members of the blogosphere (how I hate the term) have insisted for quite a while that the media was mis-lableing the violence in Iraq as an insurgency, and rather should be referring to Zarqawi's group by the more appropriate "terrorist" label. Much of this criticism has been dismissed by the media and it's supporters as so much semantic pedantism. Unfortunately if the media had taken note of this advice I believe talk of this great mystery could have been avoided entirely.

In reality, there is no "mystery" except that which exists in the minds of those that insist on referring to terrorist as "insurgent's". Words, as the saying goes, mean things and insurgent is a defined term meaning "one who revolts against civil authority" or "a member of a political party who rebels against it's leadership". In other words, an insurgent is typically, a member of a group that presents a competing political view.

Terrorist however has a subtle but distinctly different definition of "one who coerces through the use of fear, intimidation or violence". To be a terrorist, one only needs to use violence, but to be an insurgent one must fight with ideas, and perhaps violence, but certainly not always. There is an underlying logic that is represented by an insurgent that does not necessarily depend on violence for it's appeal. Terrorism is almost the exact opposite of insurgency in that it is violence seemingly for it's own sake that is not necessarily dependent on political thought for it's coercive power.

When viewed in this manner, the insurgency is not a mystery at all. The terrorists are basically nihilists, directed by a leadership that realizes the game is going poorly. Bennet's article contains the key to this view in it's body. According to Che Guevara:

"Where a government has come to power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality," he wrote, "the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted."

Sadly, Bennet fails to recognize the answer, because he is a prisoner of his own mistaken perspective on who the terrorists really are. It is clear that the terrorists now realize that with elections their ability to beat the Americans is lost. Indeed, the elections changed the enemy for the terrorists from the American G.I., to the Iraqi people. This explains Mr. Bennet's great mystery on why the suicide bombers target the man in the street; they realize that their only hope for victory is the long-term distabilization of Iraqi society. As long as the terrorists were killing American soldiers they couldn't achieve this objective. Now, through the slaughter of civilians they hope to accomplish their goal.

We have seen this tactic before. Lebanon presents a historical example, and also an indication of just how difficult victory will be for Zarqawi and his crowd. Hezbollah, funded by Syria and Iran spent two decades destablizing Lebanon and creating an excuse for Syria to occupy the country and provide "security". In doing so, Hezbollah was able to rob the country of it's wealth and share the spoils with Syria, a country where the economy is largely supported by it's pilfering of Lebanon's businesses.

The goal for Zarqawi is the same. If he is able to destabilize Iraq over the long-term, then U.S. influence in the region will be diminished, Iran's ability to insulate itself from the pressures of reform will be greatly enhanced, and Zarqawi, as the successful head of Al Queda (I'm projecting ahead here) will be able to enrich and build his organization with bribe money squeezed from other Arab states.

We can argue whether or not the U.S. is fighting the terrorists with the right tactics, as there are undoubtedly many ways in which the effort can be improved. However, viewed in this light the overall U.S. strategy of fighting terror on the ground in it's home of the middle east makes sense. Beat the multi-national force of terrorism in Iraq, and we likely will not have to fight them in Europe or on the U.S. homeland.

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