Review: What Terrorists Want–Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat (Hardcover)

4 Star, Terrorism & Jihad

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Everything Bush-Cheney Refused to Listen To…,

September 8, 2006
Louise Richardson
This is without question one of a handful of books that must be read by anyone who is serious about neutralizing terrorism as a tactic, avoiding the incitement of more terrorism, and acting professionally and morally around the globe. Sadly, that does not include the neo-conservatives who substitute dogma for reality, and war profiteering for peacemaking.

Unlike Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Professor Robert Pape, which I highly recommend as a complement to this book, the author here has written a definitive history, a rational appreciation, and ends with six specific recommendations, each of which has been gleefully and ignorantly violated by the current Administration, which now declares Bin Laden to be “irrelevant” and continues to cover up the fact that Rumsfeld authorized the Pakistanis to fly 3000 Al Qaeda out of Tora Bora, and Rumsfeld refused to order a Ranger battalion in to capture Bin Laden during the four days that CIA has “eyes on” and tracked him to the border (see my reviews of Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander and First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan).

While the author gets very high marks for putting together the most current, most in-depth, and most professional review of the subject, there is little here that is new to those of us who have been focused on revolution, instability, and the TACTIC of terrorism for the past 30 years. Terrorism is a law enforcement issue, in the context of a comprehensive stabilization and reconstruction program that–as the author recommends–isolates the terrorists from complicit communities. See also Rage of the Random Actor: Disarming Catastrophic Acts And Restoring Lives by Dan Korem for the home-grown “postal” or “Columbine” counter-part to the more altruistically-motivate terrorists.

Our own summary of terrorism, which is threat number nine out of ten identified by the High-Level Threat Panel of the United Nations, reads as follows:

“The ‘war on terror' must fail because it is a self-defeating slogan. To make war on a tactic — a raid, a breakout, an asymmetric attack on civilians, the use of chemical weapons — makes no sense. These tactics have worked well throughout history and will continue to. `Terrorist” tactics were used by Americans against the British in the 1770's, by the Israelis against the British, by Algerians against the French. Progress is only possible if the problem is clearly defined … as global militant Islam. It may be political correctness that prevents that definition, or it may be that there is a genuine misunderstanding of the problem. Once confronted, the origins of global militant Islam are largely well-defined and, with sufficient cooperation by a range of nations, is a relatively simple problem to treat.”

The author could not have written a more compelling indictment of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice. They are impeachable, by this account, for blunders of global magnitude, great expense, and if not impeachable incompetence, then impeachable dereliction of duty in placing energy and financial interests above the public interest. Dick Cheney set the policy process aside (see my reviews of The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill and The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11) and this set the stage for Paul Bremmer to become the most grotesquely stupid and arrogant pro-consul in the history of mankind (see my reviews of “Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq and Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq).

The notes and bibliography reflect scholarship of the highest order, and the book itself demonstrates both the author's personal experience with terrorism, and the author's intellect in studying terrorism over a lifetime. The index is better than average.

It is with a sense of sadness that I put this book down. General Al Gray, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, published “Global Intelligence Challenges of the 1990's” in the American Intelligence Journal (Winter 1989-1990), in which he clearly called for draconian increases in Third World intelligence, specifically focused on revolutionary and terrorist actors, making the most of open sources of information in all languages. The secret mandarins refused to listen. We have wasted 18 years during which we could have re-invented national intelligence and gotten it right, from 1988, when I first started demanding greater respect for open sources, the same year that Bin Laden kicked off a global campaign to spread radical military Islam, a campaign funded by the Saudi Arabian government that has bought and owns the Bush Family.

To end on a positive note, I cannot imagine our inert disengaged public awakening from its coma, in the absence of high crimes and misdemeanors such as we have witnessed under these six years of agonizingly ignorant and indeed treasonous governance. Sometimes the pain is necessary. This would appear to be such a time.

EDIT of 10 Dec 07: 100 million American voters who opted out of partisan politics are rearing their heads. Books like Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency have certainly helped.

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