Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Reply to Reader, concerning Alqueda's strategy

Calmo writes,

" ... Could Al Queda be this stupid? Did they want to underline Mr. Bush's campaign as The War President? Did they want more money spent on 'The War Against Terror'? I have even read critics claiming that they (the terrorists) prefer Bush as president because he is so incompetent. That view is surely over the top. IMHO, AQ is not this stupid. Surely the 'honor' derived is less than the political thrust given to Bush here."

Dear Calmo,

Your speculations are interesting, and I'm sure that some members of Alqueda are undoubtedly thinking along these lines. However, let us look at things in perspective. Commentators have spoken about how the Istanbul and Saudi Arabia bombings were a sign of Alqueda desperation and inability to strike the West. I guess with Spain they were proven unequivocally wrong.

I feel that such claims however fail to encompass the true nature of Alqueda. They miss the point. Rationality and logic in the usual secular empirical form common in philosophical reasoning cannot be applied to Alqueda. Their fundamental driving paradigm is one of a religious and internal struggle. They are still fighting the Crusades and warring over the Caliphate. They do not in my estimation seek to focus their efforts to "gain sympathy" or "influence thinking" in a way that would be easily reducible to logical analysis.

I think that Alqueda is structurally very much like the mythical hydra. They are attempting to recruit members, jerk the chain of Western Intelligence Agencies, develop financial and wayhouse networks beneath the radar of governments, and acting as an openhouse for different local plotters and volunteers. The 911 attack also falls into this category because it seems that Mohammad Atta drove the attack from beginning to completion.

Alqueda is more or less taking targets of opportunity, and fitting them into the general pattern using their bizaare numerology. The focus on symbolic targets is very indicative of what is called in the psychological trades magical thinking. This is the same sort of thinking that believes that symbolic objects can be manipulated to obtain real consequences, and is characteristic of primitive animistic beliefs as well as extreme religious fervor. In other words, the true mental state of the Alqueda leaders and their "planning" may well cast them in a romanticized religious epic somewhere between "The Ten Commandments" and sticking pins in a Voodoo doll.

To put it the most basic terms possible, it is my belief that Alqueda is operating under essentially the same faith-based mantra that motivated Kevin Kostner's character in the film "Field of Dreams".

If one will recall, Kostner's character is directed to build a baseball field in a cornfield with the slightly creepy whispering voice only he can hear saying:

"If you build it, they will come."

I believe that Alqueda is building it's infrastructure as a loose distributed network, recruiting members, generating multiple plots all according to a general numerological pattern, and taking the targets of opportunity that coincide with those plots based upon a generally religious belief that their efforts will eventually cause a cascade of events that will produce the outcome they desire - an Islamic totalitarian world government. This would explain why they haven't taken multiple targets of opportunity - the Super Bowl, attempting to strike on 911's anniversary, etc.

They're not trying to create an organization or wage a war, they're trying to inspire a religious movement.

It is notable that multiple chatter spikes have gone without attack in the face of increased public threat level notifications. This undoubtedly serves three purposes. First it allows Alqueda to determine leaks in their organizational network. They can put out news on an "impending attack" on a few channels, and if the Administration announces a threat level increase then one of those channels is compromised. It is notable that the Madrid 11-M attacks were NOT preceded by a spike in chatter.

Secondly, it lulls the public into a sense of complacency. They are playing the "boy who cried wolf" against us by using false alarms to innure the public into a false confidence that makes the shattering psychological effect of an attack all the more sudden. Thirdly, it paints a "mirage" or decoy image for our intelligence agencies to follow. While we seek out their "top leaders" and focus on machine-obtainable intel, their human networks are operating mostly independently and without the direction of top leadership. They can always promote someone to be the head boogie man, but the guys on the ground divided into loose cells that can't betray each other because no one really knows everyone else are plotting to kill us.

So to answer your question, I believe that they don't have any expectation about how a strike against Bush will go politically. This is despite the message issued by an Alqueda proxy organization taunting Americans by saying that Bush is the leader they want in office, because he's incompetent and alienates Muslims where Kerry might talk sense into them. I think reading too much into this message is wrong. If there is a philosophy that animates the minds of the Alqueda leadership, it's one of a religious morality theatre production. They don't seem to have any true intention to "cause" political change at all.

To adopt an attitude of causation, cause & effect, would be to miss that their psychology seems predicated upon religiously and symbolically significant correlations. This does not mean that their actions are not predictable nor are they unfathomable, but the Western presumptions of rationality, cause and effect, empiricism, don't seem to hold true in their operational paradigm. These guys have more in common with David Koresh than they do with the strategically brilliant Saladin.

And like Koresh they like things that go bomb and are willing to die for their beliefs. That is what we face. So the question is not whether they want Bush in office or not, but how Bush fits into a role they've cast for him. Is Bush just an inept Western Leader, interchangable with Bill Clinton? Or is Bush some starring actor, fated in their mythic truths to be confronted and defeated? My guess is the former, and that would mean that the priority in striking the United States would not be based upon the liklihood of retaining Bush as a leader.

And that detachment from everything we call reason may well make them more dangerous than any opponent we've faced before, because they would do things like risk complete nuclear annihilation in order to further their beliefs.

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