Category Archives: al qaeda

We Can Win a Global War with Two Fronts. We Will Lose a Global War with One.

Full Spectrum Struggle Is Not MBA Struggle,” by Dan, tdaxp, 8 May 2005,

QDR: China Tops Iraq, Osama?,” by Noah Shachtman, Defense Tech, 23 January 2005, (from DNI),

The Counterrevolution in Military Affairs ,” by Ralph Peters, The Weekly Standard, 6 February 2006, (from TPMB).

Months ago, I wrote:

Whether you are an army or a movement, you are attacked where you are weakest by someone else where they are strongest. They will exploit their advantage over you where they chose. Over and over again, this is how wars start. It’s how battles start. It is how any conflict starts.

It’s still true. Even if it means agreeing with the and Rumsfeld. Even if it means disagreeing with Shactman and Peters

The details of my thinking have changed slightly, but the message is the still the same: we must win. We are trying to win the Wars for Globalization, to finally end all wars as we have known them and spread prosperity and happiness throughout the world. We have two strategies for doing this:

  • first, keep global capitalism so countries will suck each other into the global system,
  • and second, “take care of” states that treat their people horrifically, or their neighbors badly

We will never be perfect in either of these, but we must maintain our leads in both. Our ability to keep global capitalism going will be better than the enemy’s ability to harm it, and our ability to process rogue regimes will be better than their attempts to spread. Not perfect, but enough to keep the correlation of forces going with us and maintain forward progress.

The greatest threat from rogue states comes from infiltration by terrorist groups like al Qaeda. The greatest threat to the world economy comes from a large nation doing something stupid and dangerous, like China invading her neighbors in a conventional war.

The solution is obvious: keep weakening al Qaeda and similar groups while keeping China at peace. This is a much smaller task than the two ocean war America fought in the 1940s, or the two hemisphere stand off she faced for forty years. With minor restructuring, we can even make victory easy — if imperfect.

Yet now two critics both argue that we should abandon one fight, in order to focus on the other.


There is, in short, not a single enemy in existence or on the horizon willing to play the victim to the military we continue to build. Faced with men of iron belief wielding bombs built in sheds and basements, our revolution in military affairs appears more an indulgence than an investment. In the end, our enemies will not outfight us. We’ll muster the will to do what must be done–after paying a needlessly high price in the lives of our troops and damage to our domestic infrastructure. We will not be beaten, but we may be shamed and embarrassed on a needlessly long road to victory.

We must be realistic about the military requirements of a war with China, but we also need to grasp that, for such an enemy, the military sphere would be only one field of warfare–and not the decisive one. What would it take to create an atmosphere of defeat in a sprawling nation of over one billion people? A ruthless economic blockade, on the seas, in the air, and on land, would be an essential component of any serious war plan, but the Chinese capability for sheer endurance might surprise us. Could we win against China without inflicting extensive devastation on Chinese cities? Would even that be enough? Without mirror-imaging again, can we identify any incentive China’s leaders would have to surrender?


But it does not require, apparently, a wholesale change of direction. Terrorist-type threats will get some new attention. But the Defense Department isn’t about to optimize for that threat, the way it did for the Soviet Union. Big money will continue to be spent on fighter jets designed to duel with the Soviets and destroyers designed for large-scale ground assaults. Grunts on the ground won’t get much more than they do now. The war on terror may be “long.” But, apparently, it’s not important enough to make really big shifts.

Schactman’s paper is the easiest to deal with. Of course we aren’t optimizing for one overarching challenge: because there are two overarching challenges. Focusing on one core-competency might be the MBA way of doing things, but it would be deadly for a great power. In warfare, optimization isn’t about being the best you can be in one thing: it’s about being better than your enemy in all things.

Peters’ claims confuse our goals with China, and so require some unraveling. Peters plans for a war that would require US occupation of China: an impossible task. The purpose of building up to deter China isn’t to conquer her, but to prevent her for attacking her neighbors. The war with China, itself, would be the disaster, nearly as much as allowing her to occupy whatever neighbor she wished. Our build-up should thus be geared to avoiding the need for a war with China, by maximizing our ability to destroy her offensive forces rapidly.

Embracing Profiling

The Taxonomic Obsession: Profiling as a 4GW Tactic,” by Myke Cole, On Point, 13 January 2005,

Myke Cole, who is, by the way, awesome, criticizes “profiling” in our global war on terrorism. He does so in the context of 4th Generation Warfare military theory, which has previously been discussed here at tdaxp. Among other other criticisms, Myke Cole argues that profiling will be ineffective because

  • the enemy is too adaptable
  • that the enemy’s network structure is not easily profiled anyway…
  • and that profiling is a unique Western “obsession.”

The first two criticisms are besides the point, and the third is a reason to profile

Is the enemy too adaptable?

Our terrorist enemies have shown themselves to be media savvy and every bit as aware of current trends as we are. If we are considering narrowing our target scope to young Muslim-looking males and doing so in many public forums, then they know it. Salafi Muslims come in all shades and two genders. The notorious Azzam Al-Amriki (Azzam the American), who does not appear Middle-Eastern, is quoted on a purported Al-Qa’ida video saying “Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood, matching drop for drop the blood of America’s victims.” One of the most recent terrorist threats was delivered by a man largely believed to be a white Australian. 44% of Bosnia’s over four million citizens are Muslim, most of whom do not appear Middle-Eastern. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that citizens of the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, are of Asian ethnic stock.

No. Our enemies are not nine feet tall While we should assume our enemies are smart and resourceful, major al Qaeda leaders have shown an inability to adapt in very importance battlespaces. This even goes so far as alienating natural allies. We make mistakes. So do they. We have limited resources. So do they. They will not always adapt successfully.

When we force al Qaeda to adapt, we melt them with frictional heat. We deform them into an ocean of possibilities. We mutate them, and because most mutations are harmful, we hurt them.

Are our enemies’ networks too difficult to profile?

The FTO list’s problems are manifold. First, it creates an illusion of corporate organization where none exists. Thus, the myth of Al-Qai’da as a physical group, when it is actually more of a movement, persists. Second, it fails to distinguish the manifold nature of organizations on the list, such as HAMAS or Hezbollah, both of which function as NGOs that serve their constituencies with food, medical care and a variety of community services. Many members of HAMAS and Hezbollah are doctors or political figures who do not engage in terrorist operations or material support of terrorist operations. Third, as a political tool, it lacks consistent application. Thus a currently active, highly violent group such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not listed as an FTO, while the Kach movement is listed; even though it has done little more than organize protests and verbally harass its opponents.

No. We have much more to fear from organizations than movements Arguing that a movement is as effective as an organization falls into John Robb‘s fallacy of global guerrillaism. That sort of thing just does not work.

A mere collection of believers does not have the ability to plan massive, multi-continent operations, such as 9/11. It is easy to forget that the 9/11 Commission Report described meetings in East Asia, North America, and Europe. Organization is important, and a “movement” is not an organization. A movement has spirit, but no body: it is a ghost, not a monster.

Is profiling a Western, or American, “obsession”?

As in the profiling of individuals, the western obsession with taxonomy can disarm counter-terrorism investigators and analysts in their attempt to ascertain the nature of the real threat, by lulling them into a false sense of security that all terrorist groups in existence can be accounted for in a corporate manner by the FTO list. The FTO fails to take into account numerous NGOs that provide direct or indirect support to terrorist organizations, such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY)[16] or the Al-Haramain foundation. The very term “Foreign” sets an implication that ignores the fact that many of the most dangerous terrorist cells are operating within the borders of the US homeland. The July 7th London bombers weren’t foreign to Britain at all.

Yes. That’s why we should run towards it. When I discussed the sex politics of Jesusism-Paulism, I observed what Paul noted as the unique weaknesses of men and women, and that “to a netstruggle strategist, it is a description of the warriors and an opportunity.”

And in a review of Blueprint for Action I wrote:

that things that go against our core competencies are core incompetencies.

If Americans are natural taxonomers — if we want to organize people into groups — this is an opportunity. If we are not good at avoiding taxonomy, then avoiding categorization is a weakness we should avoid.

4GW theory teaches us, just as Sun Tzu and Mao said before, that we must flow away from things that are hard to things that are easy. If Americans want to categorize, it is not enough to call it an “obsession” and avoid it. Rather, strategies should be built that encourage us to categorize, and profile more effectively than ever.

Modern genetics promises to make profiling more effective than ever. Earlier on this blog I discussed lecture by geneticist-political-scientists Dr. Hibbing and Dr. Kurzban Just listening to these men allows all sorts of “profiling” ideas to emerge. For instance, if political attitudes and political behavior are both influenced by genetics but through different genes (as it appears), a powerful rule-set of a SysAdmin force would be

  • Enter a country, widely distributing food, money, or other goods at mobile stations
  • At every station collect a DNA sample (hair, skin, etc) from every recipient
  • Running this information through a computer, it should be easily to determine the 10,000 men aged 15-35 most likely to fight the initial stages of an insurgency
  • Protect those men in state facilities (“draft,” “imprison” them) for 18 months, while taking steps to minimize resentment (pay a salary at the end of the term, etc)

We should not blindly or stupidly profile. But profiling will not be automatically overcome by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations without significant difficulty and significant damage. Our desire to profile shows means that politically it is wise to employ. And new technologies will soon make profiling wiser than ever.

We must embrace victory. To do that, we should embrace profiling.

Update: Mark Safranski thinks deeper

The Geographers New Map, Part III: Global Terrorism

Catholicgauze concludes his three part summary of a recent speech by Dr. Harm J. de Blij. Part I: Climate Change and Part II: China are also available, as is information about Dr. de Blij’s new book, Why Geography Matters.

This is the last installment of my rundown of by Dr. de Blij. The final part of his speech was spent on global terrorism. The most disappointing thing about his discussion on part three was that he only had a total of five minutes left to communicate his ideas about terrorism.

Terrorism: A main point made by Dr. Blij is that the terrorism of today is unlike the anarchists terrorist of the turn of the last century. Those were unorganized trouble-makers with a penchant for killing heads of state. Terrorists of today are the tip of a well organized effort spanning continents. They rely on failed-states and geographic isolation to thrive.

Pakistan and the former Afghanistan provide a great example of Dr. de Blij’s point. In the tribal areas communication is difficult so local control is a necessity. However, if the locals are crazies (in the words of Bishop Catholicgauze and not Dr. de Blij), it becomes a lot easier for a terrorist group like al Qaeda to set up shop.

A strong state which wishes to grow and connects into globalization would resist a reactionary group like al Qaeda and their ilk. It is then easier to understand why the same group that attacked the World Trade Center (al Qaeda) is actively trying to topple allies of the United States (the Republic of Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) and America itself. They need failed states so they grow like a cancer and then spread to other countries and if strong countries resist and retaliate, the cancer dies.

An example which concerns Dr. de Blij is Ethiopia. Ethiopia borders the troubled , the three Somalias, and Sudan.

Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland

Ethiopia also is a gateway into Kenya and southern Africa with minimal interference from the Sahara Desert. Islamic terrorists have been slowly dragging Ethiopia into turmoil hoping to turn the whole horn of Africa into a giant center for operations. He citied the increase of Caucasian Chechens (who in a variety of reports I have learned are the most fanatical and “crazy” of all Jihadists) in not only Ethiopia, Iraq, and other hot spots but also those caught trying to bomb targets in South Africa. If a strong country like Ethiopia were to fall to the jackals of terrorism, nothing could stop them in the Horn of Africa.

As an aside Dr. Blij talked about the recent pirate raid on a cruise ship 100 miles off the coast of Somalia. He pointed out it would take a organized group with technology and intelligence to try to ambush a lone ship in the open ocean.

To wrap up his speech Dr. Blij stressed the importance of geography in planning. He blamed the current “mess” in Iraq to planners who knew nothing about the cultural geography of the country and pointed out how the position of Geographer has been empty at the State Department for years and has been vacant through many administrations. (Catholicgauze wishes to give a shout-out to anyone in the State Department and he offers nominates himself to the position of Head Geographer!)

Dr. Blij then wrapped up his speech by taking questions on China and Climate Change and went outside to sign books. I had other pressing affairs and had to skip out on the book signing. But I must stress he is correct in the assertion that the United States of America needs more geography education.

In the seven core areas of No Child Left Behind only one receives no geography funding. About half of the US school-attending population cannot locate Texas immediately on a map of the country and about a quarter of school-attending children cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map of the world (source: the latest NGS PSA). If our future leadership generations are more attuned to popular culture and illiterate when it comes to global affairs, apathy and false ideals like fascism or communism can easily led society astray down the tubes. It happened before to the British Empire and it can happen again. We need to stress a true liberal education with math, science, history, geography, and the arts. A well balanced citizenry will be better able to handle the problems that face us in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Great series, Catholicgauze!

Larry Dunbar on Mujahid Humor

Hi Dan, You just PISRRed the enemy,” by Larry Dunbar , tdaxp, 13 October 2005,

No Longer Feared ‘Freedom’ Fighters?

My dress-up as an Muslim holy warrior has been getting some interesting responses, noticing, jokes, a death threat, etc. But the most creative contribution came from Larry Dunbar. His thoughts:

Hi Dan,

You just PISRRed the enemy. But then you probably know that. These images are your attempt to Subvert-Reorient-Reharmonize and maybe even to Isolate the enemy.

Implicit laws form and maintain an organization. With a terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda these laws take the form of pictures or, in other words, images inside the head. These images so far include a tall Arab calmly telling the world how he is going to strike and destroy the greatest powers in the world. They show the destruction of symbols of that power taken of the WTC on 9/11. They maintain these images with pictures of burnt out cars and craters. These images are also maintained by videos of suicide bombers before they attack, IED’s going off and any other successful acts attributed to the Al Qaeda organization. The need for these images is so important that if you were to replace the image of the burning constitution on your blog with a terrorist holding a bunny rabbit, or some other offensive image, my guess is your site, if not you personally, would suffer a vertical attack of some kind. Al Qaeda could not afford to have this kind of image of themselves, if your blog still is as relevant as you said it once was.

The OODA loop of this kind of organization is unlike any other. For one thing it is very slow. For another, instead of looping back to Orientation, Al Qaeda loops theirs back to Observation. They only have to go through the Orientation strategy as they Decide and carry out the Act. Because the image of the Act is so important, failure cannot be tolerated. That is one reason they like car bombs so well. Not only does it create an image that lasts inside the heads of the communities and families of the car bombers, but also they are highly successful. Because this organization practices such an old form of warfare, I call this type of warfare Zero Generation Warfare (ZGW). It gets its strength from its simplicity. It doesn’t need a lot of dogma, simply a successful plan that will produce an image that will give its members a feeling of importance or belonging. When this type of organization becomes too successful and the acts are seen not to be important, the organization simply disappears.

I need some time to think before I try to answer this. Anyone else?

Fast and Rough

Spreading the Fire,” by Dan, tdaxp, 1 February 2005,

The Big Bang spreads . . . the rough way,” by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 7 October 2005,

Is noted grand strategist Dr. TPM Barnett ripping me off again?

Compare, yesterday’s blog post over at his blog:

It’s not just Saudi Arabia where the locally-derived jihadists are returning home for the weekend and blowing up a police station or two.

Yes, Jordan’s Abdullah and Egypt’s Mubarek warned of this as an outflow of the Iraq takedown, and it worried them, because maybe they’d finally have to deal with all the angry young men in their respective systems.

Good thing or bad? Bad in content, of course, but very good in terms of speeding the killing. We can do this nice and slow, or we can do this fast and rough, as Tina Turner used to growl onstage before singing “Proud Mary.”

Al Qaeda has been quite open about its strategy of stretching the Americans thin. But rather than stretching us out, this development incentivizes the locals to deal with this long-held hatreds and grudges, like the massive chip on Musab al Zarqawi over how Jordan’s treated him in the past.

In the end, what will have to change for all this violence in the Middle East to stop is not our withdrawal, but political reform in the region. Keeping this fight suppressed, or having it exported to our shores like it was on 9/11 is certainly a safer route for the local authoritarian regimes. Then again, I think 9/11 put us past caring about those regimes’ stability like we used to.

Bush basically runs a race with Osama: who can destabilize the region’s regimes first? Both sides want change, but only one wants to replace the current autocracies with a religious dictatorship. What Bush wants solves the problem. What Osama wants merely extends it.

Bush may suck at execution, but his strategic instincts are sound. He’s not looking to leave these problems to the next generation, and yet, unless his execution gets better, that’s exactly what he’ll end up doing.

And me, back in February

George Bush is a very brave man.

He talks of spreading the fire of freedom. He has destroyed the status quo ante bellum. But so are the Salafists.

It is ironic that so much of the Bush agenda for the Greater Middle East is coterminus with Osama bin Laden

Bush has removed the army from Saudi Arabia, pressed for rapid trade normalization with Iraq, and is seeing Ariel Sharon withdraw from the Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

While bin Laden and Bush have radically different views of “freedom,” they both agree that the decrepit Arab states do not provide it. So it is no suprise that Bush is not the only one spreading the fire

In Iraq the Salafists and Ba’athis view each other as useful idiots. In the rest of the Greater Middle East, the Salafists and the Americans both wish transformation
. This is the nature of the Global War on Terrorism.

Of course, he writes a lot better than me…

Honor Bound to Defend Terrorism

Ah, the academy…

Please join us for

A Staged Reading of

_Guantanamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom’_

Sunday, September 25

City Campus Union Auditorium


Sponsored by The Lincoln Bill of Rights Defense Coalition and UNL’s Human Rights Human Diversity Initiative.

Guantánamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom’ is the work of playwrights Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo from spoken evidence and letters from British detainees to their families. The play was commissioned by London’s Tricycle Theatre, from an idea by Nicholas Kent, in January 2004, and played there and at the New Ambassadors Theatre, followed by amateur readings throughout the U.K. The play has had U.S. runs in New York City, Tucson, Northampton, San Francisco, San Diego and Boston.

This public reading of Guantánamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom’ is intended to foster local dialogue about U.S. detentions at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere around the world. The U.S. signed on to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture to join a world community that set standards for the most basic human rights, including humane treatment and the ability to challenge one’s detention in a court of law. There will be a moderated discussion after the reading.

It’s not like they were captured on the battlefield fighting for the enemy or anything

Managing Crime on the Southern Border

America’s Gangster Auxiliaries,” by TM Lutas, Flit(tm), 13 August 2005,

Qutong an article on strategy page, TM Lutas discusses how America has established an informal border security system

The Intel agencies have spread the word around the criminal underground that pursuit will be relentless, and punishment harsh and certain for anyone who gets too cozy with Islamic terrorists. It’s understood that the criminal gangs will do business with just about anyone (including intel agencies from just about anywhere). But even in this amoral atmosphere, the Western intel agencies have drawn a line of death for the players. At the other extreme, the word is out that valuable favors can be had for any gangsters who pass on valuable info about terrorist operations. Such deals are fairly common, although not given much publicity for obvious reasons (the resulting headlines cause major political headaches.)

This explains a major mystery. Why hasn’t Al Queda been going through notoriously corrupt Mexico with their well established illegal immigration system and launched attacks on the US? Such an obvious attack route has led to calls on the right for the militarization of our southern border. The militarization didn’t happen but the attacks didn’t come either. Al Queda didn’t show other evidence of being that kind of stupid so why not exploit a gaping hole in US defenses?

We are managing crime by informally signaling very high prices for actions we don’t like, like maintaining minimal prices for crimes that the government doesn’t care about (people smuggling). However, TM Lutas notes a fragility to this policy

The safety of the US southern border is thus now under indirect, and not direct, US control. This is tenable, for now, but we might not understand impending failure of the arrangement until two late. Two important failure modes come to mind. First, that Al Queda could inspire greater terror and flip these forces to become their auxiliaries. Second, our own tales of unendurable retribution could no longer be believed and commercial avarice could carry the day.

One might say that this is a stick-heavy approach:

Now the mystery is solved. The coyotes and drug barons who carry on illegal cross border trade have been warned in a manner that has scared them into being US allies on the issue of US homeland defense in much the same way that the Mafia was recruited into our forces for WW II duty as black hat auxiliaries.

But “carrot-and-stick” works best for changing behavior. So what’s the carrot?

Al Qaeda is Losing (but has a chance on the Euphrates)

Al Qaeda as Warfighting Entity,” by George Friedman, Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report, 2 August 2005,

George Friedman, author of America’s Secret War on geopolitical analyst recently sent out an email looking at the Global War on Terrorism. His conclusion: bin Laden is losing.

First, Friedman writes that the Global War on Terrorism is a real war

Karl von Clausewitz wrote that war is the continuation of politics by other means. In order for the United States to be engaged in a war with al Qaeda, three things seem to be necessary.

  • Al Qaeda must be an entity that is capable of making and enforcing decisions. There can be no war without strategy and tactics, and no strategy and tactics without a command structure.
  • Al Qaeda must have political goals that are in some sense practical. Punishing the infidel is not a political goal: It is not intended to achieve a political outcome, nor is it intended to create or influence regimes.
  • Al Qaeda must have a warfighting strategy that it is pursuing. Its actions must fit into the paradigm of war and make sense from a military standpoint.

In our view, all three of these criteria are met. This does not mean that al Qaeda will or won’t be successful; it simply means that al Qaeda’s behavior can be properly understood in terms of war.

Second, al Qaeda has achievable goals

Al Qaeda also has political goals. Indeed, it differs from prior groups that used terror tactics by the fact that it embarked on the war with political goals. The long-term goal — creating a caliphate encompassing all the lands it deems to be part of the dominion of Islam — was not the immediate goal. Rather, al Qaeda’s immediate goal was to increase the effective Islamist opposition to existing Muslim regimes to force at least one successful uprising. The means toward that end were two-fold: First, to demonstrate in the Muslim world the vulnerability of the United States — the patron of many of these existing regimes — and second, to force a response from the United States that would increase either contempt or effective hostility among Muslims. If the United States refused combat, this would be a sign that it was a paper tiger. If it surged into the Islamic world, this would prove the United States was the enemy. Either way, al Qaeda thought it would win.

Third, al Qaeda’s mistake was assuming that hatred and distrust of America would translate into anti-American attacks

If they made an error, it was only in assuming that genuine anti-Americanism and hatred of local regimes supported by the United States would translate into effective anti-Americanism that could be leveraged to al Qaeda’s advantage. Public sentiment matters in democratic regimes; it doesn’t matter in warfare very much. Consider: Most of Europe hated the Germans and their occupation during World War II. Anti-German feeling was overwhelming. Nevertheless, this did not translate into effective anti-German sentiment. European states were never in a position to overthrow German power. That required an external intervention. In Vietnam, on the other hand, anti-Americanism proved effective: It turned into a warfighting process.

Fourth, the only place al Qaeda has been close to successful has been in the Sunni Arab provinces of Iraq

Where al Qaeda miscalculated was in assuming that sentiment would turn into effective sentiment. Thus far, except in four Sunni provinces in Iraq, that hasn’t happened. But that it didn’t happen was neither pre-ordained nor obvious. Al Qaeda knew what it was doing.

Conclusion: America is winning

At this point, al Qaeda is losing the war from the standpoint of its own strategic goals. No Muslim regime has fallen since Sept. 11, save two — Afghanistan and Iraq — that fell to the United States. The Iraqi resistance showed extreme promise for a very long time, given American miscalculations. Anti-Americanism had turned effective. However, the shifting calculus among the Sunni elders has threatened to undermine support for al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the Sunni nationalist insurgency — onto which al Qaeda has clamped parasitically — has been in danger of disruption. This, coupled with serious breaches in al Qaeda’s global system, forced the group into a desperate counteroffensive.

The Euphrates War truly is the central front in the Global War on Terrorism.

Act Recklessly to Win

Seuss on Japan,” by Curzon, Coming Anarchy, 30 July 2005,

Dark Diary,” by Alan Dowd, The American Enterprise, September 2005,

In anticipation of the 4-year mark of 9/11, the AEI‘s magazine gives a chronology of what might have been

January 27-February 12, 2003
Explosions rocked the government district in Amman, and rescue workers succumbed to caustic fumes and blistering skin as Jordan reeled from the deadliest terror attacks worldwide since September 2001. Jordanian sources reported that a cloud of poison enveloped a wide swath of the capital after ten buses exploded throughout the city. At least 4,100 people were killed, with thousands more treated in hospitals and makeshift decontamination facilities outside Amman. Officials estimate between 100 and 200 Americans among the dead. According to the White House, the poison cloud was sulfuric acid.

A video recording by a man identifying himself as Musab al-Zarqawi warned that more attacks would follow if Jordan continued to cooperate with the United States. Washington confirmed that Zarqawi is a Jordanian with ties to both al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence.

On the same morning that a U.S. medical relief plane was downed over Amman, the New York Times published excerpts from a CIA memo warning about the possibility of Baghdad transferring material to Zarqawi for use against U.S. interests. But according to CIA director George Tenet, “the intelligence was too murky…we just couldn’t connect all the dots.”

King Abdullah was not harmed by Zarqawi’s attack, but his government was toppled. A committee of clerics sympathetic to bin Laden emerged to govern the once-moderate Arab nation. “This is a great step toward our new caliphate,” an aide to bin Laden announced.

May 1-5, 2004

Stung into action by the dirty-bomb attack in Chicago, the lame duck Bush administration vowed to begin “an all-out war on terror.” A flurry of activity at military bases all across the nation underscored the seriousness of U.S. intentions. But the buildup came to a sudden halt after two soldiers were killed and 15 injured when an attacker lobbed grenades into a barracks at the headquarters of the 101st Airborne in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. News outlets initially reported that the attack came from a breach of the base’s heavily guarded perimeter, but Army spokesmen later confirmed that the attacks came from inside the sprawling facility. Sergeant Hasan Akbar was detained after the attack, which left the nation paralyzed with fear.

Any hopes of the American people overcoming that paralysis were dashed when bin Laden issued a stunning double-edged threat: “Be warned,” he began, “our martyrs have infiltrated your military. If you attack our brethren, we will carry out more martyrdom missions against your army. If your stooges in Europe attack, we will strike them. And if the Zionists attack, we will rain missiles on their cities. America lacks the will to stand up to our martyrs.”

Checkmated by what he called “an axis of evil,” a humiliated Bush ordered U.S. forces to stand down.

I immediately though of Chirol‘s and Duck of Minerva‘s Dr. Seuss series, and in particular a Seuss strip posted by Curzon


It can so easily be flipped to


While sometimes wise, delay can be a bad problem much, much worse. When time is against you — when the correlation of forces is inexorably sliding from bad to worse — intervention is needed. In the new version of the comic, Japan let her relationship with the United States get so badly that by December 1941 the only way to not capitulate to American demans was war. By wishing the problem would go away, by hoping that the bath water would somehow cease warming, the Empire guaranteed the water would be scolding hot. Heated by a nuclear furnace.

When the “go slow” lobby cried for a Ramadan truce in the Afghan War, when the “go slow” lobby wanted “more time for diplomacy to work” before the Iraq War, when the “go slow” lobby wanted to delay the Iraqi Elections, these dove Leftists were making the same mistake as the hawk Rightists of pre-War Nihon. They did not realize that time was on the Enemy’s side. In this new war on terrorism, despotates are a swamp that terrorism thrives breeds in. Tyranny is like a flame heating a bath. The longer the flame is there, the worse the bath gets. Wait long enough, and the bath will kill you.

And when that “bath” is the war against terrorism, then the only solution will be to never get it — to capitulate to the terrorist’s demands, because you have waited too long.

To change the cartoon once more:


Then what is the solution? When you are cornered, what should you do? How should you approach the bath? What was the right path after 9/11?

First, tactically embrace defeat. If you find yourself in that situation, it is because you have already waited too long. Give into despair that you cannot wait any longer.

Then, rearrange your mind. Embrace the task before you. Want to do it.

Last, realize that caution is your enemy. If you had not waited so long, you could take a slow-and-steady approach. But you have already waited too long, and time is on your enemy’s side. And Mao said, “Just act recklessly and it will be all right.”

Sometimes, if you don’t act recklessly you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.

Or the rest of your civilization’s existence.