June 8, 2008


A Not Very Private Feud Over Terrorism (ELAINE SCIOLINO and ERIC SCHMITT, 6/08/08, NY Times)

A bitter personal struggle between two powerful figures in the world of terrorism has broken out, forcing their followers to choose sides. This battle is not being fought in the rugged no man’s land on the Pakistan-Afghan border. It is a contest reverberating inside the Beltway between two of America’s leading theorists on terrorism and how to fight it, two men who hold opposing views on the very nature of the threat.

On one side is Bruce Hoffman, a cerebral 53-year-old Georgetown University historian and author of the highly respected 1998 book “Inside Terrorism.” He argues that Al Qaeda is alive, well, resurgent and more dangerous than it has been in several years. In his corner, he said, is a battalion of mainstream academics and a National Intelligence Estimate issued last summer warning that Al Qaeda had reconstituted in Pakistan.

On the other side is Marc Sageman, an iconoclastic 55-year-old Polish-born psychiatrist, sociologist, former C.I.A. case officer and scholar-in-residence with the New York Police Department. His new book, “Leaderless Jihad,” argues that the main threat no longer comes from the organization called Al Qaeda, but from the bottom up — from radicalized individuals and groups who meet and plot in their neighborhoods and on the Internet. In his camp, he said, are agents and analysts in highly classified positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

If Dr. Hoffman gets inside organizations — focusing on command structures — Dr. Sageman gets inside heads, analyzing the terrorist mind-set. But this is more important than just a battle of ideas. It is the latest twist in the contest for influence and resources in Washington that has been a central feature of the struggle against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

Officials from the White House to the C.I.A. acknowledge the importance of the debate of the two men as the government assesses the nature of the threat. Looking forward, it is certain to be used to win bureaucratic turf wars over what programs will be emphasized in the next administration.

If there is no looming main Qaeda threat — just “bunches of guys,” as Dr. Sageman calls them — then it would be easier for a new president to think he could save money or redirect efforts within the huge counterterrorism machine, which costs the United States billions of dollars and has created armies of independent security consultants and counterterrorism experts in the last seven years.

Preventing attacks planned by small bands of zealots in the garages and basements just off Main Street or the alleys behind Islamic madrasas is more a job for the local police and the F.B.I., working with undercover informants and with authorities abroad. “If it’s a ‘leaderless jihad,’ then I can find something else to do because the threat is over,” said Peter Bergen, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, who puts himself in Dr. Hoffman’s camp. “Leaderless things don’t produce big outcomes.”

Nor did the thing when it was leadered, but these hardly seem mutually exclusive positions. We need decent policing to catch the wahoos here and for the military to treat the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan that have no sovereign government as free fire zones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 8, 2008 7:56 AM

Kipling's World. Screw Guns.

Smokin' my pipe on the mountings, sniffin' the mornin' cool,
I walks in my old brown gaiters along o' my old brown mule,
With seventy gunners be'ind me, an' never a beggar forgets
It's only the pick of the Army
that handles the dear little pets -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
For you all love the screw-guns -- the screw-guns they all love you!
So when we call round with a few guns,
o' course you will know what to do -- hoo! hoo!
Jest send in your Chief an' surrender --
it's worse if you fights or you runs:
You can go where you please, you can skid up the trees,
but you don't get away from the guns!
They sends us along where the roads are, but mostly we goes where they ain't:
We'd climb up the side of a sign-board an' trust to the stick o' the paint:
We've chivied the Naga an' Looshai, we've give the Afreedeeman fits,
For we fancies ourselves at two thousand,
we guns that are built in two bits -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
For you all love the screw-guns . . .

If a man doesn't work, why, we drills 'im an' teaches 'im 'ow to behave;
If a beggar can't march, why, we kills 'im an' rattles 'im into 'is grave.
You've got to stand up to our business an' spring without snatchin' or fuss.
D'you say that you sweat with the field-guns?
By God, you must lather with us -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
For you all love the screw-guns . . .

The eagles is screamin' around us, the river's a-moanin' below,
We're clear o' the pine an' the oak-scrub,
we're out on the rocks an' the snow,
An' the wind is as thin as a whip-lash what carries away to the plains
The rattle an' stamp o' the lead-mules --
the jinglety-jink o' the chains -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
For you all love the screw-guns . . .

There's a wheel on the Horns o' the Mornin',
an' a wheel on the edge o' the Pit,
An' a drop into nothin' beneath you as straight as a beggar can spit:
With the sweat runnin' out o' your shirt-sleeves,
an' the sun off the snow in your face,
An' 'arf o' the men on the drag-ropes
to hold the old gun in 'er place -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
For you all love the screw-guns . . .

Smokin' my pipe on the mountings, sniffin' the mornin' cool,
I climbs in my old brown gaiters along o' my old brown mule.
The monkey can say what our road was --
the wild-goat 'e knows where we passed.
Stand easy, you long-eared old darlin's!
Out drag-ropes! With shrapnel! Hold fast -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
For you all love the screw-guns -- the screw-guns they all love you!
So when we take tea with a few guns,
o' course you will know what to do -- hoo! hoo!
Jest send in your Chief an' surrender --
it's worse if you fights or you runs:
You may hide in the caves, they'll be only your graves,
but you can't get away from the guns!

Posted by: Mikey at June 8, 2008 6:41 PM

KIpling does it for us.

As to the article, I would recall that it is the reformation of the spiritual jailhouse that we are seeking. We should hope that that this may be accomplished as the reformation of the FORMER SOVIET UNION had been, peacefully, and not as the reformation of Shintoism.

Now the key to this process is to convince the other side that their system is not working. This will make them desire to change themselves. Then they wil go into the perestroika-glasnost-downfall tailspin.

Now in order to accomplish this, we must engage them in such as way as to make their civilizational failure manifest, most of all, to themselves.

By all means, suppress the leaderless jihadists wherever they may be found, but do not neglect the global struggle to humiliate, discredit and destroy the jailhouse itself.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 9, 2008 4:27 AM

To the contrary, it would be unChristian to wish to make them Russia.

Posted by: oj at June 9, 2008 6:46 AM