Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rules of Warfare in Terrorism?

“The Rules of warfare, as we used to know them, are out the window.  I mean, there’s no rules of warfare.  It’s just if you can take innocent life to shake somebody’s will, or to create consternation in society, just go ahead and do it.” ~George W. Bush

I just listened to the president’s one-hour press conference upon returning to the United States from his surprise trip to Iraq. In general, I found the press conference slightly more interesting that listening to the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons (wah wah wah wah…). The speech and follow-up questions were filled with typical Bush rhetoric as he still tries to bolster support for his policies, particularly in Iraq.

But during the Q & A, Bush made the very interesting comment above that deserves a bit of analysis. And an important question, a vital question, is whether the terrorists have a true plan of action, which includes rules of warfare that govern their actions.   Because I believe that by understanding the motivations and goals of terrorists, we can begin to fight them, and to prevent terrorist attacks.

Many believe that the goal of terrorism is to take innocent life, but I disagree. In reality, I believe that the actions of terrorists have a specific goal, to inject fear into the normal day-to-day actions that comprise our lives.  By doing this, the fabric of society begins to break down, and societies become more closed and insular, protecting themselves at the cost of the liberties and values that the target countries hold dear.

I am not of the mindset that terrorists are mindlessly evil, or that they have no concern for the human lives they take. To the contrary, I have known some people who have later joined terrorist organizations, and at least they started out believing in the sanctity of human life. I believe that later, perhaps in desperation, they have been willing to take innocent lives to promote their cause.  The distinction helps us prevent further attacks.

By realistically examining the goals of terrorism, we can begin to see patterns in their attacks, and identify potential future targets.  Most attacks are perpetrated on every-day-life events. Attacking a work-place, a bus ridden daily, or a crowded outdoor marketplace are common targets, not just because the terrorists have found ways to infiltrate security, but because it creates a fear of living your normal life.

Our administration is consistently talking about bolstering security to unheard of levels for special events, but rarely if ever are these events attacked. In “The Sum of Al Fears” the Super Bowl is attacked with a nuclear device, with deaths over 100,000. But in reality, these type of attacks are not carried out, in Israel, Iraq, or the United States, because these attacks do not carry out the terrorist objectives of injecting fear into normal life.

While I lived in Israel, statistics indicated that 1 in 12 terrorist attacks succeeded, and thus there was an unwritten rule that all terrorist attacks would attack locations with more than 12 potential victims. But events like the Peace Now rallies in Kikar Tzion, with tens of thousands of potential victims were never attacked, because that is not normal life, and do not fulfill their goals.
Similarly, we look upon the horror the attacks on the World Trade Center, but should also recognize that, again, they were targeting the workplace for thousands of Americans, and as such were attacking our daily existence. Imagine if they had coordinated the attacks on the planes instead on a Sunday and flown 4 planes into 4 football stadiums.  The cost in human lives would have been much higher.

Is terrorism evil?  In my mind, absolutely yes! But is it random? Are there no rules of war that are followed by our adversary? I don’t think so. I think terrorists have rules of warfare that our government has not been able to identify as of yet, and as such we are less capable of defending ourselves against imminent attacks.

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Posted by Scottage at 11:32 AM / | |