News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Decapitating al-Qaeda or Us?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Decapitating al-Qaeda or Us?

"Born at the Crest of the Empire" has an excellent set of pieces related to how security forces deal with terrorism. That posting links to an article at Yahoo that interviews several terrorism experts who discuss the effectiveness of "decapitating" the enemy. This means: if you cut the head off, you'll kill the body. In war, if you get rid of the leader, then you'll demoralize and scatter the soldiers. Alexander the Graet followed this principle in Persia.

Unfortunately, this tactic does not work with terrorist groups. For one thing, these groups are loosely defined entities with adaptable hierarchies. Much like today's "flat" corporation, terrorist groups exhibit easily redesigned command and control structures. Therefore, simply killing the purported head of an organization does not always, indeed in most cases, destroy the group.

Ever since the day when George Bush played out his role as padron and mouthed those immortal lines, "Bring me the head of Osama bin-Laden," (parroting that Sam Peckinpah classic, "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia") the US has followed the demonstrably failed policies of Israeli anti-terroroism strategy. ...

Well, following that plot line did not work, so we are on to other scripts, more and more low-budget grade-B movies. The Bush admin is close to following the script for "Damien," if they haven't been following that one all along. Of course, this is the very strange logic of Washington insiders--they can spin two, three, or five movie scripts at the same time. Which one they're actually following therefore becomes that much more difficult to discern.

According Jenna Jordan, University of Chicago anti-terrorism scholar:

"The Pakistan case, where you have all those people killed, that's the kind of `bad press' that keeps a movement going," said Jordan, whose 2004 study reviewed 72 international cases, stretching back almost a century, in which militant movements' leaders were targeted and killed.

In most cases, she found, the movements carried on — particularly if they were religion-based, like al-Qaida. Only one in five violent religious groups collapsed when their leaders were eliminated, she determined.
So why continue a policy that obviously has failed? In many respects, the US is following another script, one that WS Burroughs often noted. This is the systematic and controlled use of chaos and anarchy to achieve much larger goals.

In times of stress and turmoil, that is, those in power continue to exert their control since people are reluctant to question anyone or anything that promises to bring about order, even though that order itself might be unjust or untrue. People will sacrifice freedom and self-awareness simply out of a desire to eradicate uncertainty and internal and external discord.

As Soren Kierkegaard pointed out a century and a half ago, anxiety about the future and death breeds cowardice and spiritual rigor. Instead of choosing freedom and such things as love and forgiveness, people in general will choose security and safety. These reinforce bad habits and ultimately destructive behavior and spiritual attitudes. Eventually, if left unchecked, these lead to what Kierkegaard called "the sickness unto death," a spiritually decadent state wherein people are much like zombies--"alive" and kicking, but spiritually brain-dead.


mikevotes said...

Kierkegaard. I think you're working several levels beyond me at this point.

The point that I got is that organically developed violent movements have a strength beyond a personality cult or PR campaign because they arise reflecting genuine popular issues.

Thus, "decapitation" is merely taking the top off the iceberg.


the cynic librarian said...

Thanks for the comment. Kierkegaard opposed the rise of the life-form associated with capitalism and its proxy, representative govt. He was specifically concerned with the use of religion--in particular Xtianity--to bring about this socio-political transformation.