The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

4th Generation War

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has criticized VP Cheney’s recent comments that questioned the wisdom of early “disengagement” from Iraq. Pelosi said:
You cannot say as the president of the United States, 'I welcome disagreement in a time of war,' and then have the vice president of the United States go out of the country and mischaracterize a position of the speaker of the House and in a manner that says that person in that position of authority is acting against the national security of our country.

I recently received a Stratfor (a non-partisan consultancy specializing in “providing situational awareness, focused insight and actionable intelligence in the areas of geopolitics, security and public policy”) e-Newsletter entitled: “Iraq: Jihadist Perspectives On A U.S. Withdrawal.” It provides a fascinating discussion of the GWoT (like it or not, from the Jihadists’ point of view, the Iraq War is one battlefield in the GWoT).

Most of those who are most ardent in their belief that we should leave Iraq quickly are also very anxious to “talk with our enemies.” It seems reasonable that before we begin talking, we should first listen to our enemy’s words. Stratfor begins:
Al Qaeda leaders and the jihadist movement in general always have taken a long view of the war, and discussion of a U.S. withdrawal from either Iraq or Afghanistan has long been anticipated. In planning the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda leaders clearly expected that the United States, once drawn into a war, eventually would weaken and lose heart. A study of al Qaeda's philosophy, mindset and planning -- conveyed through the words and actions of its leadership -- is a reminder of just how the current U.S. political debate fits into the jihadist timeline and strategy.”

Of course, you might argue that this represents Stratfor’s considered opinion, nothing more. Okay, let’s consider the Jihadist words themselves:
In a 1997 interview with Peter Arnett, [Osama] bin Laden said, "We learned from those who fought [in Somalia] that they were surprised to see the low spiritual morale of the American fighters in comparison with the experience they had with the Russian fighters. The Americans ran away from those fighters who fought and killed them, while the latter were still there. If the U.S. still thinks and brags that it still has this kind of power even after all these successive defeats in Vietnam, Beirut, Aden, and Somalia, then let them go back to those who are awaiting its return."

After US soldiers’ corpses were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu (think: “Blackhawk Down”) we withdrew our troops from the Somali hellhole. At the time, I thought a different approach would have been called for, but President Clinton chose otherwise. His actions were interpreted by bin Laden as “Americans ran away from those fighters who fought and killed them.” Clinton’s retreat reinforced an earlier retreat by President Reagan, who withdrew from Lebanon (1983) after Hezballah killed over 200 marines in a barracks bombing.

What did bin Laden conclude from all of this and many other incidents, beginning with Jimmy Carter? From Stratfor:
In a February 2003 message, he [bin Laden] said, "We can conclude that America is a superpower, with enormous military strength and vast economic power, but that all this is built on foundations of straw. So it is possible to target those foundations and focus on their weakest points which, even if you strike only one-tenth of them, then the whole edifice will totter and sway, and relinquish its unjust leadership of the world."

Bin Laden and other jihadist strategists often have stressed that the U.S. economy is one of the foundations to be attacked. However, another significant -- and in their view, vulnerable -- target is morale. In an October 2002 statement, marking the first anniversary of the Afghanistan invasion, bin Laden discussed the importance of "the media people and writers who have remarkable impact and a big role in directing the battle, and breaking the enemy's morale, and heightening the Ummah's morale."

One could argue, with some justification, that the public’s low morale at present is due to significant mistakes that have lead to a lack of progress in Iraq. But low morale is also a matter of perception. And public perception has been formed by a predominantly left-leaning MSM that has been unrelentingly negative about everything associated with the GWoT and unremittingly critical of the military and the administration. Although the Democrats have every right to criticize, their strident tone and recent House vote further shape the public’s morale. None of this, of course, is intended to play into the Jihadist’s hands (at least, I hope it isn’t), but it does.

From Stratfor:
An al Qaeda military strategist and propagandist, Abu Ubeid al-Qurashi, expounded on this concept in an article titled "Fourth-Generation Wars," carried by the organization's biweekly Internet magazine, Al Ansar, in February 2002:

"Fourth-generation warfare, the experts said, is a new type of war in which fighting will be mostly scattered. The battle will not be limited to destroying military targets and regular forces, but will include societies, and will seek to destroy popular support for the fighters within the enemy's society. In these wars, the experts stated in their article, 'television news may become a more powerful operational weapon than armored divisions.' They also noted that 'the distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point.'"

Al-Qurashi went on to extol jihadist successes in fourth-generation warfare, in settings ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia. He also noted that, like the Soviet Union, the United States was not well-suited to fight that type of war. And he predicted that al Qaeda's ideal structure for, and historical proficiency in, fourth-generation warfare ultimately would secure its victory -- despite the fact that jihadists were outgunned by the Americans in both types and quantities of weapons. Al-Qurashi said that while the U.S. military was designed and equipped with the concept of deterrence in mind -- that is, to deter attacks against the United States -- the guiding principle was not applicable in the struggle against a nonstate actor like al Qaeda.

"While the principle of deterrence works well between countries, it does not work at all for an organization with no permanent bases and with no capital in Western banks that does not rely on aid from particular countries. As a result, it is completely independent in its decisions, and it seeks conflict from the outset. How can such people, who strive for death more than anything else, be deterred?" he wrote.

And so, for those of you who want to talk with our enemies and find “common ground” or “mutual interest,” I would first suggest that you reread each of the quotes in this post. Once you done that, consider whether Cheney (like him or not) is right or wrong when he said:
I think, in fact, if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy. The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people. In fact, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit. I think that's exactly the wrong course to go on. I think that's the course of action that Speaker Pelosi and Jack Murtha support. I think it would be a huge mistake for the country.

Everytime we’ve retreated from Islamofascism since 1979 we’ve energized the Jihadist movement and suffered an even more egregious attack down the road. There is absolutely no reason to believe that a retreat from Iraq (regardless of how screwed up the situation there is) will lead to a different outcome. The Jihadists tell us it won’t, and if we’re smart, we’ll listen.