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  • Understanding the Enemy

    Understanding the Enemy
    A Commentary by Lee H. Hamilton, President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center

    May 26, 2004

    Who is the enemy? Thirty-two months have passed since September 11, 2001, and the answer is elusive. The simple response is al Qaeda. But like many things in our complex world, that answer brings more questions.

    Since 9/11, the U.S. and its allies have vigorously pursued Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. We have killed or captured a majority of al Qaeda’s leadership, destroyed training camps in Afghanistan, and seized or frozen funds, essentially decimating the organization that hit us on 9/11. Yet terrorist attacks have proliferated in places as diverse as Mombassa, Moscow and Madrid. Even as we have thwarted attacks on the U.S., nearly everyone expects they will come. How can this be?

    The problem is that al Qaeda represents an ideological movement, not a finite group of people. It speaks and acts for those in the Islamic world who are disaffected, who aim to roll back Western influence, overthrow corrupt governments, and implement fundamentalist Islamic law and governance in Muslim lands. In this struggle, al Qaeda initiates and inspires. The 9/11 attacks were a call to action. Terrorists who have taken up arms may not carry al Qaeda membership cards, but they share al Qaeda’s ideological agenda.

    This is how al Qaeda has successfully transformed into a decentralized force. Individual terrorists have scattered around the globe with seeds of terror. Radical groups that used to combat local foes have adopted the al Qaeda goal of killing Americans and Westerners. A litany of grievances – from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, to Russian actions in Chechnya, to repressive governments in the Arab and Islamic world seemingly supported by Washington – are pulled together into a one size fits all package of hatred of the United States. When images emerge like the pictures of prisoner abuse in Iraq, they are beamed around the world, feeding this hatred.

    In this way, al Qaeda’s jihad continues, even as al Qaeda’s ability to wage jihad is hindered. Al Qaeda leadership has less ability to issue commands, distribute funds or provide training. But it doesn’t have to. The post-9/11 generation of terrorists is flexible enough to operate on its own – making alliances with local extremists in the suburbs of Madrid or the archipelago of Indonesia; raising funds; recruiting angry and disaffected young people; carrying out attacks. These scattered terrorist cells are hubs in a loosely connected global network, united in purpose, if not in operation.

    Emblematic of this transformation is Osama bin Laden, who is almost certainly unable to organize major attacks from his hideouts. It is, of course, extremely important that the U.S. capture or kill bin Laden – it would send a message of American resolve, and demoralize some of the terrorists. But capturing or killing bin Laden would not end the terror. The new generation of terrorists looks to him for inspiration, not direction. He could provide the same inspiration in death that he does now.

    So what is the U.S. to do? Fighting terrorism is now at the center of American foreign policy. But terrorism is a tactic, not an identifiable enemy. Should we fight anti-Israeli groups like Hamas or Hizbollah? Ethnic separatist groups like Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers or the Basque ETA? Combating only the core of al Qaeda would be too narrow, ignoring like-minded groups that al Qaeda has spawned. But fighting terrorism writ-large is too broad. After all, to take on everyone is to focus on no one, and eliminating the tactic of terrorism is impossible.

    In World War II, we knew that the enemy could be found in governments in Tokyo and Berlin. In the Cold War, we knew that an ideological foe was headquartered in the Kremlin. In our current conflict, we may be “winning” in the sense that we are eliminating al Qaeda, the group that attacked us. But our very actions may be provoking new groups to take up arms. The attacks of the future will likely come from people whose names we do not yet know, from places we cannot entirely foresee, through methods we have not imagined.

    What we do know is the ideology that confronts us. To defeat al Qaeda and its offspring, we must destroy more than terrorists and organizations. We must work with our own like-minded friends and allies, especially in the Islamic world, to destroy the legitimacy of an ideology that perverts one of the world’s great religions.
    Interesting peace, just wondered what this means to the different opinioned people here in the forum. What is it suggesting should be done to fight 'terrorists'. How can we destroy the legitimacy of an ideology?
    Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

  • #2
    Originally posted by Temujin
    How can we destroy the legitimacy of an ideology?
    By invading all the countries that have good supply of oil?
    “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…” -1984 about the Big Lie

    Comment


    • #3
      I want my country's armed forces to kill those people and not worry about the ideology behind what's going on. They are the new Nazis. In the Saudi Arabian attack yesterday there was a "selekcia", just like those carried by Einstatzgruppen. "Ladies and gentlemen, show us your passports where we can see them. Christians to the left, Muslims to the right". Kill, kill, kill them. Kill that...that life form. It's not even human. I really don't see any grounds for debate. Those who raise arms against another in a random act of violence driven by religious revenge or politics will be killed or imprisoned. If the rest of the world wants to sit around just commenting like they're used to USA will continue the fight on its own.
      Last edited by MonsterZero; 30 May 04, 10:34.

      "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
      --Frederick II, King of Prussia

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by MonsterZero
        I want my country's armed forces to kill those people and not worry about the ideology behind what's going on. They are the new Nazis. In the Saudi Arabian attack yesterday there was a "selekcia", just like those carried by Einstatzgruppen. "Ladies and gentlemen, show us your passports where we can see them. Christians to the left, Muslims to the right". Kill, kill, kill them. Kill that...that life form. It's not even human.
        You obviously didnt read or consider the article.
        Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Temujin
          You obviously didnt read or consider the article.
          There is no need to. They had reduced everything to such simple terms even one paragraph essay is too much explaining.

          "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
          --Frederick II, King of Prussia

          Comment


          • #6
            The article is saying theres a worldwide diaspora of those who adhere to this ideology, these people cannot be battled by the means being deployed now, it gives the ideology legitimacy. It is better to battle the ideology, show that it is defunct rather than give grounds for others to join in support of it.
            Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Temujin
              The article is saying theres a worldwide diaspora of those who adhere to this ideology, these people cannot be battled by the means being deployed now, it gives the ideology legitimacy. It is better to battle the ideology, show that it is defunct rather than give grounds for others to join in support of it.
              Temujin, how can you reason with people who believe 9/11 was a Jewish plot carried out by Mossad or that USA is primarily a Jewish country with a few Christian minorities and other garbage like this? It's hopeless.

              "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
              --Frederick II, King of Prussia

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MonsterZero
                There is no need to. They had reduced everything to such simple terms even one paragraph essay is too much explaining.
                Not sure what you mean
                Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MonsterZero
                  Kill, kill, kill them. Kill that...that life form.
                  It is so obvious, one has to be a Nazi before one can defeat a Nazi.
                  “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…” -1984 about the Big Lie

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MonsterZero
                    Temujin, how can you reason with people who believe 9/11 was a Jewish plot carried out by Mossad or that USA is primarily a Jewish country with a few Christian minorities and other garbage like this? It's hopeless.
                    Who said anything about reasoning?
                    Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sheik Yerbouti
                      By invading all the countries that have good supply of oil?
                      Suggest you pay attention to the posts made by Don Maddox and and Other mods about conduct. It seems you're the only one who didn't get the point.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CPangracs
                        Suggest you pay attention to the posts made by Don Maddox and and Other mods about conduct. It seems you're the only one who didn't get the point.
                        LOL! Who was the angry bully that made Don post it in the first place?

                        And how come my comment is so insulting to you? You believe that oil had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq?
                        “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…” -1984 about the Big Lie

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think the article misinterprets the NetWar concept. We are not facing one particular idealogy. The Al-Qaeda terrorist network is sown together by a common "story". For example: Al-Qaeda terrorists who seek to end America's relationship with Saudi Arabia could work with terrorist groups already in the US, who wants to end what they see as "international influence over America." This loose alliance can not be destroyed by confronting one problem. In all likelihood, applying pressure against one group, will cause others to come to its aid by launching attacks to confuse and disorient governments.

                          Improved cooperation between nations is likely the best solution for combatting global terrorism. As one terrorist expert said long ago, "Terrorism has had the unanticipated consequence of facilitating interdependence between nations. We find they can set aside differences in political orientations in order to preserve and protect the world community of nations." We must believe, not just say, terrorism of anykind affects us all. Sympathizing with Palestinian terrorists is to justify the conduct of Al-Qaeda.

                          Cooperation between nations can undermine the need for the use of force. If countries can rely on other nations to enforce anti-terrorists laws, apprehend, and punish terrorists, there is no real need for force. Cooperation can go beyond terrorism to understanding, accepting, and respecting the cultural, social, and political ideals of other nations. By learning how to cope with differences without the need for force could degrade the ideal that killing people and breaking things is a requirement. Nations must know how to balance their involvement with soveriegnty. It's a tall order, but probably our best hope.

                          Unfortunately, force must be an acceptable option. When remedies such as the judicial prosecution, diplomacy, and other peaceful solutions fail, our society must be willing and able to use force to preserve our way of life. Though unpleasant, our respect for life can't be used as an excuse to foolishly avoid our obligations to each other.

                          In the end, the world must learn to cope with terrorism. As long as man can't disagree without being violently disagreeable, we will have terrorism.
                          "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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                          • #14
                            The reason that I am angry ay Muslims is that they seem to be doing nothing to help. Personally I feel that only Muslims can really stop Islamic terrorism. We can kill Al Queada members as all we want, but, as long as Muslims think that they are doing Allah's bidding then they are just going to replace fallen comrades with new recruits. It's going to take an outcry from Muslim clerics from all over to tell these terrorists that, "no, Allah doesn't condone this and quit frankly niether do we." If Muslims can dry up the pool from which Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists draw there recruits from, we have a chance to win this.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Priest
                              The reason that I am angry ay Muslims is that they seem to be doing nothing to help. Personally I feel that only Muslims can really stop Islamic terrorism. We can kill Al Queada members as all we want, but, as long as Muslims think that they are doing Allah's bidding then they are just going to replace fallen comrades with new recruits. It's going to take an outcry from Muslim clerics from all over to tell these terrorists that, "no, Allah doesn't condone this and quit frankly niether do we." If Muslims can dry up the pool from which Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists draw there recruits from, we have a chance to win this.
                              Well, aren't many Muslim countries co-operating with US already? One can obviously point out countries like Saudi-Arabia which seem to help both parties at the same time, but it is a quite dangerous generalization to say that none of the Muslims are willing to help.
                              “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…” -1984 about the Big Lie

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