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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have us believe that targeted assassinations of ISIS and al Qaeda leaders are an effective approach to limiting the growth and influence of these Islamic terrorist organizations. (Bernie Sanders seems to be uncomfortable discussing Islamic terrorism and offers no meaningful policy prescriptions on the subject at all.) It is true that killing Islamist leaders is something that we should be doing, but it's a tactical activity, not a strategy. Niall Fergusson comments:
The president is so proud of his achievement in authorizing the assassination of Osama bin Laden that he thinks he can decapitate ISIS by the same means. But the point about a network is that you cannot easily decapitate it. It is not a hierarchical structure, with an all-powerful leader at the top.

Media depictions of the terrorist network responsible for the Brussels attack typically show around six people. But this, too, misrepresents the problem, because these people were part of a much larger network.

The fact of the matter if that most of people who use the term “network” have no idea what it really means. So let’s begin with the six degrees of separation. You don’t know Khalid el-Bakraoui, one of the Brussels bombers. But you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows him. That is because of the remarkable way that we as a species are socially connected. Each of us is no more than six degrees of separation away from everyone else on the planet. The sociologist Stanley Milgram called this “the small-world problem.”

In some ways, of course, it is not a problem at all. Our ability to connect over long distances is the reason that good ideas spread. The trouble is that networks are just as good at spreading bad ideas as good ones ...

Think of ISIS as the Facebook of Islamic extremism. When it started out in 2004, Facebook was just a bunch of nerdy Harvard undergraduates. Today it has more than 1.5 billion users. When ISIS started out in 2006, it was just a bunch of Iraqi jihadists. Today, according to data from the Pew Research Center, ISIS has a minimum of 63 million supporters — and that is based on opinion polls in just 11 countries.

Only a very small minority of members of the ISIS network need to carry out acts of violence to kill a very large number of people indeed. Naively, the US government talks about “countering violent extremism.” But what makes the network so deadly is precisely the non-violent extremism of the majority of its members. Some preach jihad: they are the hubs around which clusters of support form. Some tweet jihad, with each tweet acting as a link to multiple others nodes. Non-violently, the network grows.
And therein lies the danger of the PC attitude evidenced by almost all Washington elites and most progressives. They suggest the most Muslims are "peace-loving and moderate." They may be right, but the network of Islamist supporters is very, very large (I believe that 63 million is a gross underestimate), meaning that the potential support network for Islamic terrorists is also very, very large. Some network nodes conduct violence that murders innocents, but others are non-violent, offering support, protection, and recruiting that are in their own way equally dangerous.

When Obama or Clinton or Sanders suggests that we allow Syrian refugees to enter the United States without adequate vetting, they are, in fact, aiding in the growth of the Islamist network here in the US. It is an absolute certainly some percentage of the Muslim refugees from Syria will have Islamist sympathies. It is also an absolute certainty that a smaller percentage will be ISIS or al Qaeda plants, entering our country to establish covert terror cells and to convert those within the Muslim network who do have Islamist sympathies to more violent activities.

Ferguson notes that General Stanley McChrystal—an outstanding, no nonsense military leader who was forced to resign by Barack Obama—established an important strategy for combating Muslim terror groups: “It takes a network to defeat a network.”

The network McCrystal envisioned was military. But in my view, an effective anti-terror network would have military, intelligence service, local and national law enforcement, media, and citizen-based nodes—all interconnected with effective communication mechanisms. It would fight and infiltrate not only Islamic terror groups, but also the broader "network" of 63 million sympathizers. It would profile without apology. It would accept the need to eliminate violent terrorists without reservation. It would actively encourage moderate Muslims to become nodes of the network and use them to ferret out sympathizer nodes.

None of this will be easy, and none of it will happen quickly. But if our leaders insist on using an antiquated model of warfare, governed by politically correct policy, we will be guaranteed of only one thing—losing the war.