From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
The Network Can't Be Destroyed

March 16, 2004 4:22 PM

Scott Atran's op-ed on A Leander, Meaner Jihad:

No matter who is responsible for the Madrid attacks, they remind us that America faces a task reminiscent of Hercules' fight against the Hydra, the monster who sprouted new heads for each one severed. From the bombings in Morocco, Indonesia and Turkey last year, to the more recent suicide attacks in Iraq and Pakistan on the Shiite holy day of Ashura, it is clear that since 9/11 we have misunderstood the nature of global jihad.

While most Westerners have imagined a tightly coordinated transnational terrorist network headed by Al Qaeda, it seems more likely we face a set of largely autonomous groups and cells pursuing their own regional aims. Yes, some groups — from Ansar al-Islam in Iraq to Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia to Pakistan's Jaish-e-Muhammed — seem to be coordinating strategy and perhaps tactical operations among themselves. But for the most part the factions are swarming on their own initiative — homing in from scattered locations on various targets and then dispersing, only to form new swarms.

Not everyone misunderstood the nature of global jihad. I noted the potential of the terror swarm last summer with an excerpt from Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's 2002 book, The Age of Sacred Terror.

Networks - supple, malleable, invisible - have the advantage over hierarchical organisations, like law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. A virtual enemy is nimble. Moreover, networks can swarm. Their well-developed communications enable them to come together for short periods to launch an offensive, then disperse. It is not only antiglobalization protesters who can use the Net effectively to coordinate the arrival of large numbers of people in the same place at the same time. If al-Qaeda, or its successor, makes this transition, the danger it poses will be vastly greater.

Dick Cheney's strategy? Destroy the enemy:

This enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed, and that's the business at hand.

Ain't gonna work. Sorry. Back to the drawing board guys.

More from the archive in Emergence, Terrorism.

The Network Can't Be Destroyed (03.16.2004)

Next Entry: Cheney speaking during coverage of Baghdad hotel bombing (03.17.2004)
Previous Entry: Europeans want a check on American global dominance (03.16.2004)

Jim Gilliam
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