zenpundit.com » 2006 » September

Archive for September, 2006

Friday, September 29th, 2006


Will return to normal blogging come Sunday. Right now, too many irons in the fire for anything but the most superficial posting. Have a great weekend !

Thursday, September 28th, 2006


Be interesting to compare his end of liberal imperialism thesis for the horrors of the 20th century with van Creveld’s decline of the state thesis.

I’ll get to reading it by Christmas.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006


Thanks goes to Dave Dilegge of The Small Wars Journal for his speedy posting. Major hat tip.

“Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate. Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.

Dated April 2006

Key Judgments

United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes al- Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.

• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.

• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.

• Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida, could erode support for the jihadists.

We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti- American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

• We assess that the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly abroad but also in the Homeland.

• The jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the .cause celebre. for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1)
Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq .jihad;. (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims.all of which jihadists exploit.

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists. radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

• The jihadists. greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution.an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari.a-based governance spanning the Muslim world.is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists. Propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.

Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.

• The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements.

We assess that the resulting splinter groups would, at least for a time, pose a less serious threat to US interests than does al-Qa.ida.

• Should al-Zarqawi continue to evade capture and scale back attacks against Muslims, we assess he could broaden his popular appeal and present a global threat.

• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qa.ida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations.
Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al- Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation.

• We assess that such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al- Qa.ida but will pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad. The focus of their attacks is likely to ebb and flow between local regime targets and regional or global ones.

We judge that most jihadist groups.both well-known and newly formed.will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.

• CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups.
While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active state sponsors of terrorism, many other states will be unable to prevent territory or resources from being exploited by terrorists.

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.

• We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train, and obtain logistical and financial support.”


This seemed a good time for a classic study:

Estimates and Influence ” by Sherman Kent

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006


Click the links for the full posts. Followed by a brief comment from me:

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett

“This analysis is typical intell stuff: obvious, useless, and playing into a do-nothing mind-set that here says, “Do nothing to piss off the terrorists!”

…The issue isn’t our military involvement, which has been constant for decades now, but the everything else that we suck at: our diplomatic, economic and social engagement with the region. Criticizing our military in the region is perfectly fine, but most of that criticism (from me included) revolves around how poorly we do the everything else–not the mil stuff per se.”

Colonel W. Patrick Lang

“Since the reforms of recent years, the CIA no longer runs this “show.” It is among the many functions that CIA has lost to other parts of the government. The NIC now works for John Negroponte as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It appears that Negroponte is trying to let the NIC function as it should, in splendid isolation from the policy confirmation needs of whatever administration might currently be in power. It must be difficult. The neocons believe that they “know better” than the intelligence people, and that estimates should be written on the basis of the needs of an administration for propaganda support of policy. Negroponte evidently resisted that demand in this NIE. He has tried to publicly distance himself somewhat from the judgments of this NIE, but he let it be published. Congratulations Mr. Negroponte. Congratulations.”

GroupIntel Blog

“First, I helped put together one or two NIEs and other NIC documents in my day but even without my insights it should strike everyone as fairly obvious that this assessment likely says a whole lot more than just this heavily flogged and hyped data point. If I had to guess I’d say you’re talking at least 15 pages of material that runs across a wide spectrum of terrorism-related issues, so either that’s 15 pages of variations on the “Iraq is the source of all our woes” theme or there is a certain element at work that would like you to believe that is true by leaving out what the other 14 pages says. I’ll let you guess which is more likely.”

Dave Schuler

“I do wish that people would stop chiding us, the Administration, the President for not seizing on alternatives that we didn’t have. “

Counterterrorism Blog

” The claim in the NY report would echo judgments of some of our Contributing Experts, notably Evan Kohlmann as early in May 2005, that the Iraq war has been an “engine of international terrorism.” But it’s also true the NIEs have certainly included some major blunders. The 1997 NIE, the last one before the 9/11 attacks on global terrorism, mentioned bin Laden in only three sentences as a “terrorist financier” and didn’t reference al-Qaeda at all. And of course, it was the October 2002 NIE which was a significant factor in the decision to use force against Iraq by famously asserting, “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.”


“I was sitting in on a small conference with the intelligence community last year and a prominent member of the IC railed against the phrase ‘connecting the dots’. He was frustrated with that analogy because the child’s game the name comes from and intentionally implies has labelled dots to serialize actions. The IC, he argued, does not know what the end product will look like and isn’t given instructions on which dots to connect. Instead, it must infer and figure it out. In the case of the insurgency in Iraq and global extremism, how could one not see the next step from each prior? Action–> Reaction”

I would like to repeat and perhaps, extend, a remark I made on this topic over at The Small Wars Council yesterday.

The great, seldom reported story, here is the unrelenting bureaucratic guerilla warfare being waged by senior career management in the IC, especially at the CIA, against the policies of the Bush administration. It’s like nothing I have seen in my lifetime, including the Nixon administration.

This is not to say that the Bush administration appointees have always been right and their internal critics wrong or that the unwillingness of political appointees to entertain dissenting views didn’t help fuel the scenario in the first place. That is a foolish and blind position to take. But from where I sit as an outsider to the process it would appear that the adversarial dynamic has long since taken on a life of its own – a dangerous one for the USG.

Nor are we getting an accurate view with this story [ Austin Bay points to this rebuttal by the White House; also by Negroponte ]. The contents onf the NIE were selectively leaked and, as with any NIE, some of the most interesting data points never made it into the document; either because the confidence level was not sufficiently high to merit inclusion or they were too controversial for the “consensus” approach. What was left on the cutting room floor ? And why ?

Furthermore, who composes this determined cadre of highly positioned, apparently untouchable, IC leakers and what are their motives ? To whom are they connected in the political world, if at all ?


Bush to order declassification of the NIE.

While it will be potentially amusing and enlightening to see the degree to which the IC insiders and the NYT were conducting an IO against the administration by the selective leaking and spinning of a classified document*, this is probably not the most responsible course of action that the President could take. Publication of so recent a vintage NIE gives too much meta-analytical insight into the current thinking of the IC. Not that I won’t read it myself but if I can draw the appropriate conclusions so can others. Sometimes, being in power means sucking up a few the low blows on the merits and then retaliating politically elsewhere, in a more legitimate context, at a later date.

* be interesting to know if any emails whizzed between the NYT reporters and editors working on the NIE story prior to publication and various apparatchiks in the DNC, Capitol Hill and K Street.

Sunday, September 24th, 2006


In the midst of a time of family celebration, Mrs. Zenpundit and I were hosting a sleepover involving the Firstborn of Zenpundit and a couple of other girls in the same early elementary range. From my fatherly perspective, it would seem that a girl’s sleepover primarily involves two things:

a) The consumption of large quantities of processed simple sugars.

b) Squealing.

Lots and lots of squealing.

Switch to our mobile site