Archive for May 17th, 2013|Daily archive page


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 17, 2013 at 1:25 am

It’s long past time to re-think the role that inflexible bureaucracies have played–and continue to play–in the so-called “war on terror.”

In fact, a good place to start would be scrapping that phrase.

“Terrorism” is not and never has been an end in itself. It is, instead, a means to an end, nearly always used by organizations unable to field conventional armies.

“Terror,” as such, can never be eliminated. But those who practice it can be targeted for destruction.

Thus, a more accurate–if politically incorrect–title for the conflict now raging between the United States and its Islamic enemies would be: “The War on Islamic Aggression.”

It’s true that not all Islamics are terrorists. But it’s equally true that most of the terrorists now threatening America are Islamics.

Bureaucracies are, by their very nature, conservative institutions. They may start out as innovators, but, over time, techniques that were new and fresh become old and brittle.

What worked in the past against one problem fails to work when pitted against an entirely new challenge.

Since 1981, the United States has been on the defensive against Islamic terrorism. As noted investigative journalist Bob Woodward warned in a 2001 Frontline documentary:

“These terrorist incidents–they [American Intelligence agencies] used the tools that were available, but it was never in a coherent way.

“I know from talking to those people at the time, it was always, ‘Oh, we’ve got this crisis. We’re dealing with the Achille Lauro now,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Quaddafi,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Libyan hit squads,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Beirut.’

“And it never- they never got in a position where they said, ‘You know, this is a real serious threat,’ not just episodically, but it’s going to be a threat to this country throughout the administration, future administrations.

“We need to organize to fight it. It can’t be a back-bench operation for the FBI and the CIA. It’s got to be somebody’s issue, so it’s on their desk every day. What do we know? What’s being planned? What are the threats out there?”

It’s time for the United States to cast aside its hidebound, case-by-case approach to fighting Islamic aggression. It’s time for American Intelligence to recognize that the secrets to defeating Islamic terrorism lie within the history, culture and religion of the enemies we face.

In Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the Third Crusade [Doubleday, 2001] James Reston, Jr. demonstrates that the past is truly prologue for the soldiers of Islam.

Suicide Warriors: Rashid al-Din Sinan, known as “The Old Man of the Mountain,” was the head of the Assassins. He was imam to a cadre of young men, known as fidai, who swore personal allegiance to him.

Once, to prove the devotion of his followers to a Crusader leader, Sinan gave a quick hand signal to two fidai high in a tower. At once, both leaped to their death in the ravine below. Sinan then asked the Crusader if he would like to see another such example of loyalty; the Frank said this wasn’t necessary, that he was convinced.

Promises of Paradise: “Assassins” is derived from “hashish.” During the fidai indoctrination ceremony, a devotee was given a potion laced with cannabis, put to sleep, and then transported to a beautiful garden.

When he awoke, he believed he was being given a glimpse of the Paradise to come. He would extend his hand and receive a dagger–and instructions for murder: “Go and slay so-and-so, and when you return, my angels will bear you into Paradise.”

Sunnis vs. Shiites: Sinan–from Basra–belonged to the Shi’ite (minority) branch of Islam. Even in the twelfth century, the rivalry between Shi’ism and Sunnism was intense. Sinan blamed Saladin for defeating and erasing the Shi’ite Fatamid Caliphate of Cairo and imposing Sunnism in its place. Sinan ordered two attempts on the life of Saladin himself.

The first failed when the assassins were intercepted and killed only a few feet from Saladin. The second almost succeeded: Posing as one of the Sultan’s bodyguards, the assailant slashed at Saladin’s head.

Bleeding and terrified, Saladin fought off his attacker until his guards intervened. Saladin survived only because he wore a mailed headdress beneath his turban.

Saladin quickly negotiated a non-aggression pact with Sinan

“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”: The Latin Christians were not Sinan’s greatest enemy. This honor was reserved for the Muslim viziers in Aleppo and Mosul. As a result, Sinan reached an accommodation with the Templers.

The Assassins and the military monks understood each other well, for they had much in common: Both groups were luxury-spurning religious fanatics.

On occasion, the two went to war: After a boundary dispute in 1154, the Assassins murdered Raymond II of Tripoli; in return, the Templers butchered a number of Muslims.

After that, an accommodation was reached. For a time, the Assassins paid the Templers a hefty tribute to be left alone.

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