February 24, 2006

Fighting the last war...

Ethan Hahn e-mailed some thoughts that seem to me to be right on the mark:

I read Hugh Hewitt's interview with Austin Bay on RadioBlogger last night:

...and near the end, Hugh has a line that finally made a connection for me. He and others keep talking about the incremental increase in the threat - that Al Qaeda sleepers could infiltrate DPW and get their hands on, I don't know, schematics or protocols or shipping schedules or whatever else...here's the line that hit me: "we go back to Cold War bad guy days, and we know what penetration operations look like. And even though they don't have anywhere near the technology or the number of say, Stasi, they've got advantages in terms of our ability to detect them, because of the cultural differences."

...and it struck me...as happens in every conflict - these guys are fighting the last war! The Soviet Union had vastly different goals than the jihadi's do. I don't know near as much about the history of the Cold War as you, but my understanding is that the Soviets wanted to infiltrate our industries to steal our technology; infiltrate the government to find out what we were doing or how we'd react in situations; infiltrate our infrastructure to find out as much about our capabilities as possible so that if full-scale war ever came they'd have an advantage; infiltrate foreign governments to exert hegemony over Europe and Asia and Central and South America; and in every way, to erode our power, economically, politically, etc. Full frontal confrontation would be suicide - so their best weapon was stealth, plausible deniability, proxy agents, etc. They didn't want to take out one of our cities, or nuke Tel Aviv, or behead prisoners on live TV.

All these arguments would have made perfect sense in 1968, or in 1983 - but in 2006, the incremental threat posed by an enemy agent having access to financial documents or maps of the air ducts is just nonsensical to worry about. Let's worry about someone putting smallpox in a container loaded in Odessa, or putting a nuke on a passenger jet out of Tunisia and setting it off at JFK. And most of all, let's try to transform the Middle East, bringing liberty and prosperity to them, helping them embrace liberty and globalization and western values - let's not slam the door in their face.

We have to do the 'Homeland Security" thing; it's expected. But if terrorists decide to ht us, they will. Look at Iraq. We have an army constantly patrolling, we have what's become a very large and effective Iraqi Defense Force, we have an aroused, armed and vigilant population, and yet...ka-boom. Goodbye Golden Mosque. They could do the same thing here. Heck, I could blow up a big building myself, for probably less than $20,000. (How? Should I say? Why not. Lots of big buildings have retail space inside--often whole shopping centers. So I rent a shop, fill it with cheap curios to sell, and start accumulating Ammonium Nitrate or Ammonium Sulfate in my store-room. Buy it in small quantities in different locations as fertilizer. Same with some diesel oil. Ship it to myself in small quantities by UPS, or just bring it in a small box at a time. Six months later, BOOM.)

Al Qaeda isn't interested in us. They want to control the Muslim world. And with the prospect of an elected government and a free people right smack dab in the Arab heartland, they have much higher priorities than attacking us. That's one of the reasons hitting Iraq was a stroke of pure genius. Al Q has been forced to react to our moves. That's what's protecting us from attack.

Posted by John Weidner at February 24, 2006 12:21 PM
Weblog by John Weidner