THE WAR ON TERROR: Analysts & their Observations

Posted in Other , Terrorism | 02-Mar-04 | Author: Marvin Leibstone| Source: Global Security & Trade Journal

FROM nearly all of today's U.S. and allied terrorism experts, the bad news is that disassembling the now 30+ active terrorist groups could still take a dozen or more years.

MOST of these analysts also believe that a more intense, more expensive and less divided effort to undo root causes of terrorism and choke off recruitments and financial support is desperately needed, or terrorism could last another generation, maybe decades past that.

THE good news, they add, is that many of the most feared scenarios probably won't happen as long as the U.S.-led war on terror continues and Washington takes seriously the need to separate terrorist groups from WMD.

ALSO, though money and politics have joined terrorist organizations for such activities as the 'bomb network' that surfaced recently in Iraq, analysts have reasoned that terrorist organizations coalescing for the long term and becoming a global enterprise under a single CEO is unlikely. "It won't materialize," an expert tasked with studying inter-group links argues, "because terrorist group cooperation is limited by cultural differences. Terrorists in South America and Europe think that their Islamic counterparts, who destroy without first looking carefully at post-event political and military reactions, and who prefer their women enslaved, are incredibly loco and untrustworthy."

AS for dictatorships partnering with terrorists for the long term, experts say the two would need plenty of WMD or a joint venture couldn't be much of a threat. Experts add that rogue states have learned from the 2003 anti-Iraq war that building WMD arsenals and getting cozy with terrorists is likely to be 'regime suicide.'

UNFORTUNATELY, no U.S. or allied nation analyst has data indicating how long suicide bombing will be a terrorist group's tactic of choice. "There's no assembly line producing thousands of Stepford terrorists every week," according to an Israeli scholar of Arab terrorism recruitment tactics, adding, "Suicide bombers are a rare breed of highly motivated persons vulnerable to puppet masters and ideas taking them to the edge. Of course, one is too many." Envisioned is a year or two before a real decline of suicide bombings is noticed, less time, however, if counter-terrorism authorities establish the right disincentives and demonstrate to terrorist leaders that the act produces only negative return on investment.

APPRECIATED by terrorism's strategists is that only one person is needed to pull off a suicide bombing, neither he nor she capable of being captured and interrogated after the act. Analysts will want to know what terrorist leaders believe should replace it. Several think the next anti-U.S. tactic of choice will be 'electronic terrorism,' use of the internet from remote and safe distances to disrupt critical infrastructures, e.g., telephone and computer communications, banking, electricity for the office and home, mass transportation, health care, fuel supplies, sanitation services, water and food supplies.

NO-one can prove that terrorist attacks will increase over time, or with less frequency yet more lethality, or if the frequency and tempo of terrorism will remain erratic and unpredictable. When 'uncertainty' becomes the long sword of the enemy, a threatened nation is served well by planners who believe that the worst can happen but also that such can be prevented. It is why after 9/11 the U.S. experienced creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, now one year old, and has led the global war on terror. However, if important is the protection of computer-driven quality-of-life values for most of the world's metropolitan regions, then government planners and operators have been slow to deliver, a chief complaint from state and city officials being insufficient funds and resources to get the job done.

WHAT has many U.S. government and private sector analysts, intelligence operatives, law enforcement officials and military leaders upset is the spotty appearance of disconnects between the truly powerful and commendable 'sense of urgency' that exists state-wide and locally for eliminating terrorism, and the vast horizon of still unfulfilled post-9/11 requirements for tangible safeguard applications, with little consensus about where the hold-ups are.

SOME critics think the wins in Afghanistan have slowed down the protection and attack tracks, others that the war in Iraq has been a distraction and has stolen assets and motivation from the search for bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

STILL others blame jurisdictional problems between those organizations looking at liquidation of terrorism's financial assets, and those tasked with busting the narco-terrorism marriages, also those who see counter-terrorism as something to move up and down a scale relative to Middle East political issues; and, there are constituencies more concerned with preservation of passive security measures than with consideration of newer and more active approaches to protect urban and rural populations.

IF these analysts are correct, there exists a troubled, slow-moving domain of counter-terrorism combatants and ideas, a pace keeping necessary safeguard applications almost beyond the horizon, the upshot being more 'uncertainty,' which is terrorism's long arm maintaining in some locations and extending in others.