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Archive for November, 2004

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004


Dr. Barnett has a very interesting post up on his visit to brief managers at the CIA. It’s well worth reading in full but at one point he gets meaty and breaks down cabinet and other agencies into Leviathan and System Administration categories:

Leviathan =

Defense Intelligence Agency

Navy Intelligence

Air Force Intelligence

National Security Agency

National Imagery and Mapping Agency

National Reconnaissance Office

CIA’s direct action people

Sys Admin =

Army Intelligence

Marine Corps Intelligence

Coast Guard


Dept of Treasury

Dept of Energy

Dept of Homeland Security

Department of State

CIA analytical

National Intelligence Council

My Commentary:

I’m going to split hairs with Dr. Barnett about the Directorate of Operations, presuming he meant the entire directorate. Clandestine activity by the CIA involves a number of important tasks not all of which will be well carried out by twenty to thirtysomething squarejawed white guys with 1000 yard stares. Espionage is not Sabotage. There are also times and places where it is most politically convenient for the United States to have small, quiet but definitely military operations carried out by people who are not members of the U.S. military. I’m not certain if I want to take that particular arrow entirely out of the president’s quivver just yet.

Ideally, I would separate the Espionage aspect of Clandestine operations from the Paramilitary activities and place it with System Administration. Intelligence collection of a strategic nature tends to get short-shrifted as it is by the flashier and more short term covert ops as well as newsy, high-productivity ” current intelligence “. I can’t see that situation getting better under military authority that emphasizes intelligence of a tactical nature and operates by regulation rather than flexibility.

We need intelligence officers who can blend, engage in long-term, strategic influence operations involving HUMINT recruitment and propaganda. I’m not sure a recently retired member of Delta Force is best suited to recruit a Chinese genetic engineer or lobby a senior editor of a major Turkish newspaper. A variety of backgrounds, skill-sets, languages and physical types are needed for a global class intelligence service, not merely elite military skills.

Monday, November 22nd, 2004


First, I’d like to apologize for the long delay. Things kept me busy all weekend and then on Monday night I worked on this post for a good hour plus and then – I’m not sure if the problem was Blogger, my server or my hard drive but something ate my goddam post in an apocalypse of error coding ! This caused a minor tantrum and my shutting the computer off in disgust

Andrew at Politics, Applied asked the following questions in the comments ( in bold blue italics) on Friday. Under each question I added my commentary and invite others to post theirs or provide a longer rebuttal on other blogs and I’ll update this post with the appropriate links.

1. What are our goals in the GWOT? What are the goals of the extreme Islamists?

The goals of the radical Islamists as I interpret them from their own words, actions and commentary of Western experts:

Very Long Term – a unified, ultimately worldwide, Caliphate that enforces a radical Salafist version of the Sharia.

Long Termthe overthrow of all ” apostate” Muslim regimes, the destruction of Israel, the removal of American/Western/Modern/Globalization/Core influences from the Ummah. The expansion of Islamist Sharia state regimes to encompass all the lands once under Muslim rule. For some Sunni-Salafi-Qutbist radicals, the destruction of the Shiite, Ismaili, Alawite and Sufi “heretics” is an important ideological-religious goal.

Medium Term – the capture of a state for the establishment of a Sharia Emirate base with an ideological emphasis on Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for various reasons. Impose severe costs on the United States and it’s allies in the GWOT through acts of ” spectacular” mass destruction terrorism. Political and religious radicalization of the Ummah.

Short Term – destabilization of Afghanistan and Iraq. Covert infiltration of failed or failing states or outlier regions in Africa, Asia and South America. Covert infiltration of the United States and it’s allies by operational and support teams for acts of terror. Maintain secure financial support, communication and recruiting networks. Continuous training of al Qaida insiders to have a ” deep ” bench to replace operational managers killed or captured by American forces. Acts of ” unspectacular ” terror such as kidnappings, car bombings and beheadings to maintain visibility and credibility.

Very Short Term – maintain day to day security network for OBL and top leadership, small insurgency operations, support activities, propaganda in online al Qaida journals.

The Islamists have goals that range from the practical, tactical and operational to the memetic-ideological to the simply fantastic on a scale not envisioned since Hitler’s plans for the East in the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa. American goals in the GWOT are or should be the following:

Very Long Termspread of liberal, market economy, democratic regimes across the Muslim World so that they can move up and become ” New Core ” states like India.

Long Term – Discrediting, marginalization and defeat of Islamism as an ideology on par with Fascism and Communism. International acceptance of terrorism as a crime against humanity on par with slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Regime change of all rogue state sponsors of terror and WMD proliferation. Resolution of the Palestinian problem with a secular, liberal, democratic republic of Palestine at peace with Israel and economically secure in a regional common market.

Medium Term – death of all top and middle level al Qaida leaders and those of related Islamist groups. Destruction of all terror bases worldwide. Regime change in a second rogue state, preferably by diplomatic means. Establishment of a robust, militarily active, anti-terror coalition with Russia, China, Israel, India and the willing European states. Stabilization of an Iraqi egime with democratic legitimacy. Expansion of Karzai regime authority to all major cities and towns. Core consensus on priority of non-proliferation efforts. Restructuring of the American military for the GWOT and to operationally divide ” Leviathan ” and System Administration” tasks.

Short Term – Containment and degradation of Iraqi insurgency. Interdiction and termination of Iranian nuclear bomb program, by force if required. Coordinated, worldwide raids on suspected al Qaida supporters, hide-outs, bases and mosques. Disruption of financial flows to from the gulf to radical Islamist madrassa. Substantial increases/investments in HUMINT and Special Operations capabilities , analysis and linguistic personnel. Set up an operational, systemic, program to engage the Islamists in the war of ideas.

2. Does a stated policy of deterrence on our part inhibit the goals of the extreme Islamists so as to prevent a nuclear attack within the US?

Good question. No one knows though bin Laden reportedly told the BBC that he had acquired nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes which indicates:

a) That bin Laden understands the concept well enough, and

b) There is something he considers important enough to acquire nuclear bombs in order to deter America from some action.

The question is “what” ? My guess it is to protect Islam’s Holy sites.

3. If a nuclear terrorist attack ouccurs within the US, what kind of respnse would serve our goals? Would our goals remain the same in such an event?

I think a limited nuclear strike and the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans would render most previous considerations and goals moot. The ante having been upped by our enemies our response would be to ensure that such an event would not happen again by demonstrating the costs. The political pressure for anything less than massive retaliation would be enormous and well-nigh unstoppaple. It would be the Mother of all System Perturbations with historic, global, consequences.

Our goal has to be to prevent that decision point from ever being reached.

UPDATE I: JB at riting on the wall takes up Andrew’s questions. I encourage you in particular to take a hard look at his analysis of Liberal, Moderate and Radical Islamists which spans prettty well the POV from Mohammed Abduh to al-Afghani and Rida to Sayyid Qutb.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Centerfeud has a post ” They’re Out There” on Muslims who reject the extremist agenda and have, bravely in some instances, taken up rhetorical arms against the Islamists and terrorists.

Friday, November 19th, 2004


Evil and proud of it. Have to respect that in a backhanded way, you know, for the honesty. Some upfront malevolence like we haven’t really seen since the days of Heinrich Himmler.

Friday, November 19th, 2004


The question raised by Marc Shulman on the prospect of nuclear terrorism by Islamist radicals brought out many fruitful comments and concerns. A common point of agreement seemed to be the need for national discussion of the issue which hopefully the blogosphere can spark.

In 2002 the Bush administration submitted a still partially classified Nuclear Posture Review to the Congress that presaged if not radical, at least some very significant changes in nuclear war doctrine. In essence, the Bush administration widened and deepened the parameters of the Flexible Response Doctrine of the Kennedy administration that was shelved by Robert McNamara in favor of MAD during the Johnson Administration when the U.S. was pushing arms control proposals at Kosygin and Brezhnev.

The Bush administration NPR had the virtue of looking creatively at developing new technological improvements to nuclear weapons that might promise to make them less destructive in terms of collateral damage and more effective against hardened targets. Unfortunately,there are two flaws in the NPR from a strategic standpoint.

First, the NPR is dominated by state-based thinking, albeit a multipolarity system designed to target rogue states in particular – naming specifically Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya along with traditional targets Russia and China – and non-state actors like al Qaida are not addressed except as ” …surprising military developments”. Secondly, the flexibility of moving away doctrinally from pre-set missile coordinate targeting tp an emphasis on ” capabilities” to respond to events leaves far too much room for megalomaniacal actors to gamble on surviving a politically constrained second-strike. To my mind if their analytical prowess determined that detonating a nuke inside the U.S. was a good idea, subtlety is wasted on them.

The problematic situation with the nuclear terrorism situation is that the Gap is filled with states that are at best rickety, dysfunctional, entities that barely qualify as nation-states or they are tribes with flags. Our Westphalian rule-set mentality has led us astray into granting rights of sovereignty to de facto non-sovereigns which is a diplomatic charade that the Core can maintain only by divorcing all the normal expectations of responsibity from them that sovereigns are supposed to exercise. Responsibilities that we hold other Core states accountable – a bizarre double-standard that works against our own interests and security.

Now failed and failing states are truly unable to control non-state actors but there are many states that simply choose not to expend resources doing so, at least to the degree where such an effort is truly effective. Their inaction as sovereigns have created situations of salutory neglect where you have ” State Tolerated Terrorism”. Or these authorities encourage radicals and fellow-travellers with a wink and a nod, benignly admiring the support their citizens give to terrorists- ” Socially Sponsored Terrorism ” while claiming plausible deniability for the regime. Finally, like Iran, they may be up to their elbows in the terrorism business as state sponsors but also eschew actions that would provoke massive retaliation.

Frankly, I’m not certain deterrence will work with the radicals already inside bin Laden’s inner circle. I think it might but ultimately I’m hazarding a guess. Nor am I opposed to ruhlessly taking direct and sustained action to crush al Qaida. What deterrence policy based on counterforce and countervalue will do to the Ummah is make the negligent authorities and the religious enablers of terror starkly aware that they share with the United States the dangers of nuclear terrorism and perhaps raise the costs for pursuing such a hostile policy of co-belligerency.

UPDATE I: Dave Schuyler of the Glittering Eye is also examining the state of American nuclear deterrence policy and neatly deconstructs the objections to a more robust form of deterrence .

UPDATE II: Marc Shulman of The American Future has two related posts up this morning on this debate, where he evidently tangled elsewhere in the blogosphere with the advocates of strategic helplessness from the Denial of Reality Based Community. The first is a commentary on my post above and his second addresses the same cockeyed logic of the oponents that Dave tackled at Glittering eye. I have to highlight this psychological observation by Marc on the deterrence opponents he encountered:

“There are three things to notice about these criticisms. First, they don’t seem to take the threat of nuclear terrorism seriously. Second, they express concern for the fate of those who would be killed by our second strike, but not about the Americans who would be killed by the first strike. Third, they offer no alternative.”

A thanks to both gentlemen for pushing a vital debate hopefully further into the public eye.

UPDATE III. Having read Wretchard’s well-considered 2003 post on Nuclear weapons and Islamist terrorism the advice of Dave Schuyler, I heartily recommend it for your perusal.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004


This issue was raised the other day by Imperial Hubris author and former CIA Bin Laden Task Force chief Mike Scheuer in his post-resignation comments (which I blogged on here). It was further supported by media reports of a recenct al Qaida detainee who has informed his interrogators of the group’s ambitions to smuggle a WMD, perhaps a nuclear bomb, through Mexico into the United States. I argued that if such an event occurred there would be catastrophic second-strike retaliation against the Muslim world by the United States in response.

Marc Shulman of The American Future has taken a look at the issue of nuclear deterrence vis-a-vis Islamist fanatics that you should read in full. An excerpt:

“Not withstanding these considerations, I believe that terrorists can and should be deterred. Terrorists do not exist in a stateless vacuum. In each state in which they have refuse, there are two other actors: the people, some of whom are sympathetic to the terrorists and some who are not; and the government, which may (1) actively support, (2) condone, (3) actively oppose, or (4) be unable to oppose the terrorists. While the terrorists may welcome death and have little or no physical assets, at least some of the general population prefers life to death and the government does have an infrastructure that it is responsible for protecting.

The objective of a deterrence policy — more precisely, a warning that the U.S. will respond with a nuclear attack on targets of our choosing, including Islam’s holy sites — should be to cause ordinary people and governments to fear the consequences if terrorists explode one or more nuclear weapons on our soil. By making the nuclear second strike doctrine public, it would hopefully have enough credibility to alter the behavior of people and governments. The specter of devastation should be an incentive for both people and governments to stop supporting terrorists and for governments to root them out. The less fanatical of the terrorists, recognizing these changes, may decide to pursue other, less deadly, activities.

During the Cold War, a second strike would have had to be launched as soon as it was recognized that we were under attack. There would have been precious few minutes between recognition and devastation. Because the countries in which terrorists make their home lack the ability (for now) to attack our homeland, our response need not be immediate. Thus, our intelligence agencies would have time to establish which terrorist group was responsible and which country was unwilling or unable to reign them in.”

I am in general agreement with Mr. Shulman’s well-stated argument. U.S. nuclear doctrine, which has been a study in ambiguity since 1991 is overdue for a review in the age of non-state actors. My quibble is that our response window must remain in the immediate aftermath in order to retain the very deterrence credibility that Shulman seeks to establish by having the USG promulgate a new nuclear doctrine. Unless SAC-NORAD is flying on autopilot with an executive branch nuked out of existence, any period of cool, rational, reflection by our elite longer than a day would result in an inability of our side ” to pull the trigger”.

No “wise man” will want to accept the moral responsibility of nuking city X in Pakistan on the best prediction by the IC two weeks after a .5 megaton bomb destroyed downtown Chicago. They will quail, then bluster and then grope for some costly, inadequate, conventional alternative. Any normal, moral, rational mind would balk when faced with the uncertainty of launching a surgical nuclear attack on millions of people on possibly slender threads of evidence. Our response must be assumed by our enemies to be certain, irrationally disproportional and general in order to function as a serious deterrent. It must be perceived by our own elite as doctrine so their own moral sense of personal guilt does not lead them to evade responsibilities upon which all of our safety depends.

The leaders of our Islamist enemies do not value the lives of their followers or fellow Muslims a whit – though their perfect record of fleeing oportunities for martyrdom says something about their instinct for self-preservation. They do value certain pieces of real estate though, ostensibly having gone to war to protect them, invoking their authority to do on behalf of the Ummah from Quranic scripture.

Most polls show that the Muslim world is not composed of Islamists but they also show widespread partial support for the actions of al Qaida, a steady flow of financial donations and social tolerance for anti-American extremism. Unfortunately, in the event of a nuclear strike by al Qaida the Ummah will have to bear the cost of their popular tolerance and enablement of terror. Nuclear exchange is premised on collective punishment so if the Islamists begin the United States will finish it for all time. The costs of a nuclear terror attack on the United States must be perceived by al Qaida, Islamist clergy and their Arab world admirers as being so devastatingly high as to be unthinkable.

We need to communicate that clearly in the fervent hope that, like with the USSR, that such steps will never become necessary.

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