CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Is the clock ticking?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Is the clock ticking?

[Alarmism is not the goal of this post; just pattern-spotting.] Oct. 6, 2002: A taped voice said to be bin Laden's threatens to attack U.S. economic interests if attacks on Arab and Muslim countries do not stop. 2002 (Oct.): Boat crashes into oil tanker off Yemen coast, killing one. Nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, killed 202, mostly Australian citizens. Sept. 10, 2003: A videotape shows bin Laden and al-Zawahiri walking in mountains. A voice, reportedly al-Zawahiri's, calls on Iraqis to attack American forces and for the Palestinians to resist Israel on an audiotape. 2003 (Nov.): Suicide car-bombers simultaneously attacked two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 25 and injuring hundreds. 2003 (Nov.): Truck bombs detonated at London bank and British consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 26. (See Suspected al-Qaeda Terrorist Acts for the chronology of attacks.) And, bin Laden's latest appearance on election eve was mainly seen through the lens of trying to figure out which candidate he wanted to win, and which he wanted to lose, and few bothered to think that perhaps a new attack was in the offing, based on the pattern of his past appearances. Are his messages tied to follow-on attacks? A central part of this question is whether al Qaeda is an organization or a movement. Like the dual nature of light -- as both photons and waves -- al Qaeda seems to possess both the requisite centralization to perform detailed planning and attacks, and the necessary decentralization to provide mere logistical and moral support for other subsidiary and aligned Islamic movements. So it is difficult to tell which attacks are organized and carried out by those acting under al Qaeda's orders, and those simply inspired by bin Laden. Some analysts saw the content of his most recent message as showing that al Qaeda is an organization on the run, and being effectively marginalized. The most cogent case for this argument is not surprisingly made by Wretchard at Belmont Club. But an alternative analysis lingers. In Terrorists turn up the dial in global PR war, the Christian Science Monitor notes that al Qaeda's propaganda campaign is detailed, lively, and interesting to Muslims -- and a new audio or video tape has been released every 6 weeks since September 11th. Could the seeming weakness on display in Osama's latest video be misinformation? I offer no answers here -- just wish to ask questions . . . In today's Jerusalem Post, Yossef Bodansky states that a WMD attack against the US is in the works:
"All of the warnings we have today indicate that a major strike – something more horrible than anything we've seen before – is all but inevitable," he said. Bodansky, here for the second annual Jerusalem Summit, an international gathering of conservative thinkers, added that "the primary option" for the next al-Qaida attack on US soil would be one that would use weapons of mass destruction. "I do not have a crystal ball, but this is what all the available evidence tells us, we will have a bang," Bodansky said. He said that al-Qaida has not carried out a second major attack on the US until now for internal psychological and ideological reasons, but after the reelection of President George W. Bush, it has gotten "the green light" to do so from leading Islamic religious luminaries, as well as from "the elites of the Arab world." According to Bodansky's reading of Osama bin Laden's mind-set, after the elaborate attacks of 9/11 there was no need for the "bin Ladens of the world" to carry out a second major attack in the US, both because the target audience of the attacks – the Arab and Islamic world – had gotten the message that America could be penetrated, and because a second attack would necessarily have to be more grandiose. Following the attacks and the US-led war on terror, a debate started within the operational arm of the organization over the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, Bodansky said. If, in pre-9/11 days, the theme used by bin Laden was that perpetual confrontation and jihad against the US was the only way to protect Islam, the argument now used is the ability to punish American society, Bodansky said. "Just as the West was challenging the quintessence of Islam by means of the globalization era, there was a parallel need by Islamic extremists to strike at – and hurt – the core of American society, this time with weapons of mass destruction," Bodansky said. A subsequent theological debate emerged within the organization, and its supporters in the Arab world, he said, over whether the mass killing of innocents is permissible. While bin Laden and his associates argued that by virtue of their participation in US democracy, US citizens were enabling their rulers to fight, other Islamic luminaries contended that this does not permit such massive attacks, Bodansky said. The reelection of Bush in November, he said, was viewed by bin Laden and his cohorts as a decisive answer to this deliberation, with Americans now "choosing" to be the enemies of Islam. In bin Laden's mind-set, he said, the stage was set for a non-conventional attack. Bodansky said that while there may still be some vestiges of debate and doubt within Islamic circles, he believes that planing for such an attack is finished. "They got the kosher stamp from the Islamic world to use nuclear weapons," he said.
Does Osama really require the permission or tacit acceptance of Muslim clerics to use an atomic weapon in the United States? What was the objective of the 9/11 attacks? Was it to induce the US to leave the Arab world and pay no attention to its affairs, while at the same time, killing the maximum number of Americans? If so, then it was only a partial-success: Al Qaeda misjudged the US reponse to an attack on its soil . . . . . . doesn't planning a nuclear attack misjudge the American response again? Rather than forcing the US into a cocoon, wouldn't a nuclear attack on the US strengthen the likelihood of an overwhelming and decisive US response? Would Americans be content to fiddle while Manhattan burned, or would they demand blood, in even greater numbers and louder voices than before? In the days after 9/11, William S. Lind, one of the thinkers behind the doctrine of maneuver warfare, published an article calling for the immediate launching of a nuclear strike against Afghanistan. Such a tactic seems too harsh -- but what level of violence would see it become justifiable to the majority of Americans? [Later this week The Adventures of Chester will examine the rightist critique of the War on Terror, in addition to posting Part V of the Iran series, which will focus on what Iran brings to the table in a fight.]


Blogger Mark Buehner said...

The question has never been whether AQ was willing to use nuclear weapons, that much is certain. The question is whether they have nukes or other WMD weaponized in such a way as to inflict mass casualties. I doubt anyone knows the answer to that definitively, but realistically the answer is probably not. If AQ has a 'magic bullet' using it immediately would be the most prudent course. The longer they wait the greater the chance of it being captured or destroyed... that is _unless_ AQ has an utterly safe sanctuary such as Iran in which it keeps its crown jewels (OBL etc). Basically everything we are trying to do in Iran, Iraq, and AQ must be viewed through the lense of whether Iran is protecting AQ and actively working against us. The WH says no, but there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.
The other side of that coin is how the West views Iran. There is a deadly dangerous assumption in much of the West (Europe anyway) that the Mullahs are simply another tyranical foriegn government that can be deterred or marginalized. That could be a fatal mistake. MAD relies on a rational opponent. MAD relies on your opponent not miscalculating. MAD relies on your opponent not to be suicidal. What do we know of our opponents? They are irrational, miscalculate, and launch suicide attacks. Are the Mullahs closer to a Hussin or to OBL? That is a critical, deadly, question.

November 30, 2004 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

Tom Ridge resigns today. Uh oh...On tin hats.

Can't believe that there's any question whatever that we will hear from Al Q soon if they're still in business. For my money, the last portion of this post contains the real food for thought: does the opposition realize how truly medieval the US is likely to get in the event of a WMD attack ? Do they care or is this all part of their "clever" plan ?

November 30, 2004 at 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Response to El Jefe Maximo. They care. They can't take over the world from the grave. Islam means nothing to the top leaders and Mullahs. Religion to them is only a means of controlling their masses. And it costs them nothing. This is a whole other subject for another day.

It is past time for the US to put MAD on the table. MAD worked during the Cold War. It is time for America to say that it will immediately respond, with devastating consequences, against any nation who provides support for any WMD attacks against the United States or it's allies. With current technologies it is impossible to hide today, even if you get others to do your dirty work. WMDs used can be traced. People can be traced. Individual terrorists can be traced.

Make no mistake about it. World War IX has started.

The Canadian

November 30, 2004 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger usually mellow said...

General Abizaid's interview in the USA Today caught my attention. It's not often that a 4 star general mentions any country country and nuclear weapons in the same interview...but I haven't been around long enough to see it all.

November 30, 2004 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger JohnW said...

It always struck me as much more likely that AQ would attack AFTER the election than before. What better way to politically cripple the winner for the next 4 years?

Has anyone speculated on where AQ would set off a nuke? NY and DC seem the obvious choices, which makes me sceptical. I don't know enough about the effects of radiation and fallout, or US weather patterns, but any target they choose would probably take this into account to inflict long term damage on our economy (radiation damage to downwind crops, livestock, etc). Panama Canal? A military base to take out a division?

Or how about something really off the wall like hitting the island of La Palma to try to trigger a mega-tsunami that would take out the entire East Coast? La Palma is in the Canary Islands, and half of its mountain is calving off and slowly sliding into the sea (the Discovery Channel did a show about this last year). Estimates are that, if the mountain half falls off, the resulting tsunami would reach 90 miles inland, with about 10 hours warning. This is my tin-foil hat theory.

December 1, 2004 at 8:49 AM  

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