You are on page 1of 76



December 11, 2002

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Table of Contents

1. WHAT ARE WE AT WAR WITH?............................................................................................... 3 1.1. THE ARAB CRISIS ................................................................................................................... 4 1.2. TODAYS WAR ...................................................................................................................... 19 1.3. TERRORISM: THE SUPER-PROXY ............................................................................................ 21

2. WHAT IS TO BE DONE?.......................................................................................................... 27 2.1. THE GEOSTRATEGICS OF THE WAR ......................................................................................... 28 2.2. CONCEPTUAL MAPPING ......................................................................................................... 36 2.3. CULTURAL MAPPING .............................................................................................................. 46


A ROADMAP........................................................................................................................ 53 3.1. GRAND STRATEGY ................................................................................................................ 53 3.2. WAR STRATEGY ................................................................................................................... 56 3.2.1. Iraq: bring down the Republic of Fear ...................................................................... 57 3.2.2. Some dominos ............................................................................................................ 59 3.2.3. Not in a vacuum: political warfare............................................................................... 63 3.2.4. Other Arab countries................................................................................................... 68 Taking Saudi out of Arabia ............................................................................................... 68 The Palestinians ............................................................................................................... 73 The frightening case of Egypt........................................................................................... 74


CONCLUSION...................................................................................................................... 76

page 2

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism


How interesting that in the present war we should have to raise the question of our opponents identity! This indicates that this first postmodern war is unlike the wars in our experience and memory. While it borrows from past wars and efforts, it is a war sui generis.

War is like a duel, writes Clausewitz: it can be boiled down to the confrontation of two opponents. We know ourselves but, do we know our enemy? In war, strategy depends on the enemy: his nature, his situation, his capabilities, his strategic intent. What are his strengths, his weaknesses? What are ours?

Who is our enemy? Terror groups, rogue states, or some nebulous, unfathomable maze of evil men? Dubbed a war on terrorism, what makes it special is that our foe is a composite rather than a well-defined, well-circumscribed entity. What has been called an Axis of Evil is itself a composite: it is a complex, shifting coalition, a cluster of dissimilar forces and entities whose motivations and actions vary. Our strategy must start from the nature and modus operandi. of the composite, not from the name that it goes by, or from a type of actions it has carried out.

page 3

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

It may be convenient to designate it with a highly-charged label, but the name of terrorism defines neither the real enemy nor the war. Terrorism is a technique, it is neither an ideology nor a program. If the Axis of Evil uses terrorism, it can by no stretch of imagination be defined as terrorism.

Who is it, or what is it, that waged war against the United States? To what ends?


The short answer is: while al-Qaeda fired an opening salvo, this war at a deeper level is an expression of a historic, systemic crisis that has gripped the ArabMoslem world. Todays Arab elites, oblivious to the self-made, home-grown nature of their own crisis, believe that they must suppress what they believe has caused their great distress. Modernity, which subverts Islam and lays bare its weakness, is identified as the cause of the distress. Since modernity is Western, the lead Western nation, the United States, is identified as the chief carrier of the trouble. It is therefore singled out as the enemy. If the pain is to end, the U.S. must be destroyed, or minimally cut down to size. In that sense, the ArabMoslem worlds crisis is being exported out of its original breeding ground, the Middle East.

page 4

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

There is a context: the present configuration of the Middle East is the product of the decomposition of the Ottoman Empire and the post-1918 recasting of the former imperial, protectorate and mandatory areas. To replace Pax Ottomanica, the British and the other, lesser players redrew the map of the region. Out of the old Ottoman vilayet, the new Pax Ottomanica created new entities: a Lebanon, a Syria, and Iraq, a mandatory Palestine, a Transjordan and so on. They were carved out and stitched together from existing ethnic, tribal, clanic, regional or administrative entities. When Anwar Sadats confidante Taher Mohsin stated that in the Middle East, there are no nation-states, only tribes disguised with flags, he was inclusively commenting on this arrangement, which fitted, or misfitted, traditional tribal formations and Ottoman administrative units into makeshift States.

It is an often-repeated mistake to believe that a Pax Americana of any form or description was substituted after 1945 for the retreating European imperial and mandatory powers. Whatever influence it gained, the United States inherited but did not alter the fundamental design of the region: as a powerful external hegemon, it inherited the map, the design, the entities that are the operative units of the design; it inherited the overall geostrategic situation, with its dilemmas and its pitfalls. All of it fell onto the lap of the rising power. Contrary to Europe which the U.S. reshaped through NATO and through its support for European efforts to unify and to Asia which the U.S. largely remolded by its reshaping of Japan, its presence in South Korea and its protection of Taiwan, etc. - the U.S. just fell

page 5

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

into the Middle East. Securing oil and keeping it out of Soviet reach were the first, initial drivers of policy. But in no way may it be said that the region was under a Pax Americana, or that it has ever been.

As a result, the deeply-flawed design of the Pax Ottomanica (a design appropriate to a stagnant, archaic, pre-industrial and agrarian-based empire, but unable to face the challenges of the modern era, the realities of the industrial revolution) provided the framework within which all the players, native to the region or external, were compelled to play. The framework itself has strongly determined or predetermined much of the action taken by the players. Typically, the local elites mobilized large masses of the populace on behalf of the independence struggle. This struggle was placed under the auspices of gaining national independence, while the motivations of the participants leaned far more toward an Islamic rejection of Christian powers domination. Thus, impulses that were ab initio at odds with each other tended to define the different entities that were born out of the independence struggles. Respectful of borders delineated by Western powers, they became separate national entities while the motif underlying their emergence was that of the Umma, the community of the Arabs and the Moslems. In turn, the Umma was perceived either as a Socialist and secular one (Nasserism, Baathism, etc.) or a religious one (Wahhabi). Not unexpectedly, the result was dysfunctional.

page 6

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

After decades of unending domestic strife and equally unending external instability, the dysfunctional framework is now fraying at the seams, as are the dysfunctional entities it is made out of. It negatively constrains the region. It impels many players into insensate actions and modes of operation. The fitting, or misfitting, of ethnic, tribal and religious entities and sub-entities, into supposed nation-states has infallibly resulted in the brutal appropriation of each by a sect or a clan which ruthlessly protects its new property from real, potential or imagined challengers. The winner-takes-all-nature of political power in each and all is what makes them go wrong. Instead of an imperial power able to arbitrate between the competing claims of rival ethno-religious groups, monopolistic predators, unregulated, chaotic warfare pitting all against all.

Absent exceptional factors, this without fail dictates disastrous course of actions.

Since 1945, the Middle East as a whole has had little else to show but wars and civil wars, despotic government and internal strife. The region as a whole has been as swallowed by a maelstrom: this alone indicates that the design is faulty. The faulty design has contributed in generating an uncontrolled crisis. The reason the design is faulty is not particularly that Mr. Sykes and Monsieur Picot drew the wrong lines at the wrong places, though. No redrawing of the map per se will be able to solve or improve anything. The entities conjured up in the aftermath of World War I are, most of them, inherently incapable of advancing anything else but despotic, predatory, tribal governance.

page 7

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Further, the conflicts and contradictions inherent in the design have been multiplied by the inability of most of the regions governments and elites to carry out constructive domestic policies, not to mention their external action.

Given the proper environment, polities that by and large are organized with a view to fostering prosperity and regulated governance tend to generate wealth and stability. The Arab states as they were constituted and as they operated during the more than a half a century that has elapsed since independence, fostered neither and resulted in neither. In turn, the acute lack of prosperity has undermined the very foundations of any form of domestic stability to the point that population growth not only outstripped but overwhelmed the resources devoted to economic growth. In perverse feedback loop, this aggravated domestic instability has worsened inter-state relations: the regional environment bristles with counter-incentives.

For nations and peoples in the region the oil manna, far from being a blessing, has proven to be a curse. It has ruined traditional social and mental structures, hierarchies of values and of rank. The old mores have been overwhelmed. They have not been replaced by stable practices, by self-sustaining institutions or by reliable sources of identity and loyalty. To maintain viability, the new mores require continued inflows of huge amounts of petroleum cash; they operate like an addiction. The relative drying up of the cash flow due to immense squandering of

page 8

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

resources and lower relative oil prices has sharpened internal tensions in the oilproducing countries. The result is not unlike the shattering disruption of the feudal world mores of Medieval Europe by the rise of monetary values and the bourgeoisie. The difference is that here the process came from the outside, not from the inside, and rather than being stretched over centuries it was compressed within peoples own lifetime: the greater the shock.

Out of that came an acute degree of anomie, the loss of essential bearings by large segments of society. Established forces and institutions lost their ability to hold peoples loyalty and offer them a sense of identity. On the loose, former allegiances that anchored loyalties released powerful emotional forces: this always defines pre-revolutionary situations. This is, as it were, the demand-side of the political process. Once this kind of ferment bubbles up to the surface, nations may be impelled into widely diverging pathways. What is on offer is the supplyside: the suddenly-released bundled-up energies will then take shape in the form of religious, social or political movements and take different roads, reform, civil war, or aggression toward the outside world. The latter two have been heavily favored in the region.

Such being the internal drivers of trouble, let us examine how they translate on the international scene.

page 9

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

After independence, the Arab countries acquired a disproportionate influence on the world stage, especially Saudia, Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Their newly-gained weight was not owed to what usually constitutes major factors of international strength, population, productive powers or military prowess.

(1) The wealth accruing from petroleum was the first cause of their new specific weight in the international arena, and their ensuing margin for action. It was wholly artificial: foreign demand for a commodity that was extracted by foreign companies solely through their efforts, investment and technology, in order to power foreign countries industrial demand. This was a first form of strength-through-rent for Arab countries.

(2) A second cause was the Cold War. Both rival blocs were courting the Arabs, if only to prevent the opponent from grabbing them. From the contenders the Arabs drew a strategic rent, which magnified their apparent power, and yielded dividends in the form of aid, armaments, technological support, etc. This boosted their diplomatic clout in turn (like in pre-Islamic times when the Byzantine and the Sassanid empires were vying for the allegiance of the petty Arab kingdoms that inhabited the space between the rivals).

A nadir in foreign policy, the Suez affair of 1956 displayed the way the strategic rent accrues. The Eisenhower Administration bailed out Gamal

page 10

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Abdel Nasser from the consequences of his own follies, only to be spat upon by the ingrate who intensified his love story with non-alignment and the latters Soviet Godfather. The lurid demonstration had been administered that the act of balance between the two blocs could yield handsome dividends from both. The ensuing Eisenhower Doctrine only enshrined the misguided U.S. policy and confirmed the region in its belief in American gullibility: a powerful, dangerous, but pusillanimous giant.

The parvenu regimes generally veered toward the Soviet Union Nassers Egypt, Baathist Syria and Iraq, Qaddafis Libya, the Sudan, Yemen, Algeria they all owed their existence to some degree of mass mobilization - whereas established regimes the monarchies retained partnerships with Western countries, notably view a view to preserve themselves from the predatory instincts and practices of their radical neighbors. The usurpers needed added legitimacy which socialism, the might and prestige of the Soviet bloc. Embracing Soviet-style Socialism in the guise of Arab Socialism, meant that there existed a form of modernity that was not rooted in Western culture. In fact the Soviet pseudo-modernity many Arabs eagerly emulated was positively anti-Western: one could adopt it without a break with ones own traditional identity, in the same way as German National-Socialism and Italian Fascism were espoused by radicalized Arabs, starting with Baath founder and ideologue Michel Aflaq.

page 11

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The Soviet-style caricature of modernity embraced by the Arab world allowed it to project to itself and the world a spurious image of modernity which allowed the Arab polity to retain its essential traits despotic, predatory, tribalist while handing out to them the new administrative and ideological techniques of regimentation and mobilization of the populace and intrusion into wider and wider walks of life1.

The point has been made repeatedly by Prof. Bernard Lewis: after making a strategic living out of playing the various European imperialists against one another - the French against the British and the Americans against the Russians - the Arab countries have been facing a novel situation. There is only one superpower unrivalled: try as they may, the EU is in no situation to match the U.S.: there is no playing two Barbarians against one another, to use a Chinese image, or two infidels.

But the striking fact remains: Since the fall of the Omeyyad Caliphate in the 8th century, and the successful power grab of the Turkic mercenary troops in the 10th century AD, and their takeover of the Abbasid Caliphate, the Persian Caliphate, the region the Arabs writ large - has never governed itself indigenously. An external hegemon has always been needed to hold sway and stem the anarchy endemic to fractious Arab tribes, even
The Arab world knew simple, traditional despotism, one bounded by limited administrative and technological capabilities on the part of rulers: hence a relatively stable social contract based on well-known and accepted rules.

page 12

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

before the modern era: Romans and Persians, Byzantines and Persians, and, after Islams conquests, the Turks, the Mongols, the Europeans there ever were non-Arab overlords. Left to their own restless devices, the locals collapse in internecine wars. Even regimes intrinsically remote from the Socialist shibboleths used the rhetoric and leveraged it, the Shah of Iran, the Emir of Kuwait, the Saudi king and his retinue, were all heard mouthing anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist slogans with the greatest eloquence and sincerity.

The strategic weight of the oil-based Arab world came within the context of the liquidation of the European empires. As Britain and France pulled out of the region, they were not effectively replaced by the United States, which relied on the Shahs Persia and Saudi Arabia to guard the Gulf, and Egypt to stabilize the rest. The Afro-Arab Bloc at the UN., the Sovietallied spirit enshrined at Bandoeng, Habana and other places, neutralism, Third-Worldism, intimidated a guilt-ridden West increasingly unsure of its own legitimacy. Conversely, the Arab world acquired after 1956 the certainty that it was untouchable: it was protected by the looming presence of the Soviet Union. Proof came abundant, no matter what insult and what injury were inflicted upon the West. The same scenario unfolded with the absolute impunity with which the West greeted acts of terrorism committed against it since the early 70s in particular.

page 13

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The strategic weight of nations is not based on purely objective factors. Fishes and birds, animals in general display bright and frightening colors, outsize membranes and make-believe weapon-like parts of themselves to awe their predators and keep them at bay. The protective device works, as long, but only as long, as the hunter believes in what he thinks he sees.

This can switch from strength to vulnerability on two accounts: first, the Arab world has come to believe in the distorted image of itself they could behold in the mirror of international affairs (and the obsequiousness of much of the West). Second, the make-believe image is liable to fracture in case of great crisis as after 9/11. If instead of the aggrandized version of the Arab world, we input in our strategic calculus a properly downsized image, its supposed strength is likewise deflated without its erstwhile beneficiaries necessarily perceiving it, which increases in turn the danger of miscalculation.

(3) The Arab countries third strategic asset was a skillful, direct or indirect, use of terrorism. Their authority, revolutionary or traditional, was uniquely suited to keep the Arab Street quiet. Their intelligence services were uniquely able to penetrate or manipulate terrorist organizations. Syria made itself much larger than life by becoming a haven for and a hub of terror, and so did Libya, and so did Algeria, and so did Yemen. To Iran and by Iraq, terror was a major force multiplier. Saudi Arabia, both by de-

page 14

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

sign and by accident, and as a by-product of its broader policies, became party to terror. And the PLO was the incubator and cadre-school of terror, as the collectively-owned joint-stock company of most Arab states. The Palestinian movement never had autonomy from the Arab countries, which sought from the start to grab and instrumentalize it. Each Arab intelligence service inserted their men and networks into the PLO. It was as though there was a market in PLO shares where Arab governments and secret services were trading, buying and selling according to the ebbs and flows of events. Thus, Syria owned its own PLO faction, As Siyasa, Iraq its own, Egypt and Saudi Arabia each owned a chunk of Fatah, etc., while the KGB, the Stasi, the Securitate, etc, also had shares in the PFLP, the PDFLP, etc. The Saudis and others purchased religious-oriented chunk of the Palestinian movement. The PLO was a beggar for money anywhere it could find it the factionalism inside the PLO reflected the fractiousness of the Arab world. Once again, the PLO was the Arab worlds life-size grand experiment that demonstrated the ways and means, the viability and the efficacy of terrorism.

Even those Arab states that did not directly foster terrorism had a use for it: they argued that they were uniquely suited to understand it, to restrain it, to subdue it. To bring terrorism under control, the West only had to be very friendly with its shareholders.

page 15

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

In the 1950s, the center of gravity of Arab politics had been close to Nassers brand of national Socialism lArabe. In the wake of the general movement of decolonization, Soviet-style organization was the wave of the future, and the choice for the present. Egypt was emulated by Syria and Iraq, by Yemen, by Algeria. Socialist forces were on the rise in the Palestinian movement, in the Sudan, even in Tunisia (Neo-Destour) and Morocco. Only the monarchies kept Socialism at bay in the Gulf. Nassers stinging defeat in 1967, in which the Syrian and Iraqi regimes shared, largely discredited his doctrine. In the ensuing vacuum, a return to basic values was nearly inevitable. It took the form of a return to Islam. Islamists had been both rivals and companions to Nasserists. The latters downfall gave them the required opening. At any rate, Arab political-intellectual history through the 19th and 20th century has forever been an oscillation between an Umma grounded in pan-Arabism and an Umma grounded in pan-Islamism.

After 1967 and even more after 1973-1978 the center of gravity of Arab politics shifted toward the Wahhabi. This had been prepared from the mid-60s by King Saud and Crown Prince (later King) Faisals relentless and well-funded campaign that extended throughout the Moslem world to rally Islam against Israel, on the basis to make a long story short of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. By 1970, Faisal pulled the biggest coup in his campaign, gathering virtually all the Arab heads of states at a summit conference held in Rabat and devoted to the

page 16

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

destruction of Israel. The outbreak of the Islamic Revolution in Iran moved the dial farther away from the pseudo-secular toward the religious.

At first, it seemed that Khomeinis militant Islam would win the day and establish its leadership over Islam, but the stigma of its Shiite birth prevented its wider spread in the Sunni world. Only Hezbollah in Lebanon successfully followed the Ayatollahs model. Still, the triumph of a religion-based Islamic movement, albeit in its execrated Shiite form, was an extraordinary incentive. Additionally, the Saudi-Wahhabi nexus had been challenged and galvanized by Khomeinys challenge. The 1979 siege of the Great Mosque in Mecca added urgency to the issue: the Saudi regime tried to run faster than the pack. To do so, it became the leader of the pack.

For Arab discontent, Wahhabism provided a coherent outlook, backed it up with unlimited money and resources, and a home base. Throughout the Arab world, the Radicals ideology, even where it did not take over, became the point of reference and the strange attractor. It provided the dominant paradigm: the scale of values, interpretations of vice and virtue, the favored and the despised human type, etc. The process was not dissimilar to the spread of Communism after the Bolshevik victory of 1917 and the spread of Italian Fascism and German National-Socialism: strong, victorious, vibrant ideologies with a powerful appeal to revolutionize and take over. Whoever had felt in the 1920s and 30s that only radical solutions could do was led to adopt one or the other of the totalitarian ide-

page 17

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

ologies, or a combination. Likewise in the post-1973 Arab world, religious ideologies of any shape and form became the vehicle and the adopted vessel for radical sentiment, energies and ambitions

Over more than a decade, the non-radicals (e.g., Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, etc.) and their traditional values have been on the defensive. The Wahhabi-Saudi nexus has ridden the tiger, being itself part-predator, part-consenting victim of a protection racket.

Let us sum up: twice in the contemporary era the Arab world has believed in its own renascence: at independence, after 1945, and as a result of the oil wealth after 1973. The reality was endemic instability, dysfunctional societies and endless wars. After the expected benefits of both aborted resurgences faded away, the reality emerged of a historic and systemic crisis.

In a first period (1945-1970) Arab countries were the theater of coups, civil wars, wars and terrorist devastations, but the crisis was largely confined to its original breeding ground, without directly impinging upon the rest of the world.

The next phase, 1970-2000, saw the crisis make forays into the outside world, in the form of international terrorism Palestinian hijackings from the 70s onwards, Qadhafis adventures, early 80s Iranian killings abroad, etc. and the two oil crises of the 1970s which shook the entire world.

page 18

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

With 9/11, the crisis has hugely extended its radius: it was a phase-change. Hitherto limited to terrorism and to its home terrain, the Middle East crisis turned into war and a world-wide reach.

Terrorism as such is the Arab Moslem worlds choice weapon. It has developed in the modern era over a period of thirty years. It is based in a complex arrangement of state, infra-state and non-state entities that operate in loose chains and configurations. This must be the basis of our study of capabilities and strategic intent, of strengths and weaknesses.


Changed parameters

The Middle Easts road to imagined salvation and power went through making itself indispensable to the external powers that needed to be manipulated: our oil, our role against the Soviets, our ability to prevent the bad radicals from taking over. These three strategic assets increased the regions traction in international

page 19

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

affairs. This may have now started to change. Past strengths may become future weaknesses. And reliance on them: strengths are addictive, especially if they are imagined.

1. Oil dominance remains a strategic asset as long, and only as long, as oil remains the swing factor in the Wests energy economy. Without delving into such issues as the hydrogen economy, alternative sources of oil, increasing efficiency and forms of conservation, the issue at hand is not absolute quantities and prices but what quantities and prices are swing factors on the world energy markets. A friendly Iraq, an Iran freed of the ayatollahs, greater Caspian output and other factors will reduce the swing factor nature of the Gulfs oil.

2. The Arab role between two rival superpowers has come to an end, and no third party will show up to replace the Soviet Union.

3. The terrorist factor has become all the more important as the second factor waned, and as the rut in which the Arab world found itself was deepening.

page 20

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism


The largely fictitious power wielded by the Arab countries, as we have seen, had taken substance by the credence given it amongst those who believed in it. Once they are revealed as imaginary, imaginary quantities that once were part of the strategic calculus, play a much more limited role. Therein lies the grand-strategic weakness of the Arab world. True strategic depth is generated by great economic or military power. The Arab world has none of these. As we have seen, the events of the 20th century endowed the Arab world with an aura of strength that can now be dispelled: it was not in-depth strategic strength, it was ephemeral and tactical only.

Lower down the food chain, the chief vulnerability of the opponent is precisely what has been a strength of the anti-Western policy emanating from the Arab world: the terrorist nebula has been deniable, arms length, unofficial it has been decentralized all the while acting as the super-proxy for strategic policies that were in effect common to much of the Arab world.

To wit: let us conjure up a vision of terrorism as a cloud, or a swarm of insects that may coalesce and de-coalesce according to opportunity, but are fed on a semi-permanent basis by states, state agencies, sub-state and para-state (chari-

page 21

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

ties etc.) organizations2. Lets continue the image of a swarm of insects and consider the terrorists as insects that rally around beehives; the beehives have bee-keepers, the bee-keepers have clients and supply-chains. This metaphor is useful to illustrate the modus operandi of the terrorist guerrilla war against the West.

The swarm of insects has operated as a super-proxy on behalf of much of the Arab world, as a force multiplier.

Further, there is a parallel between the way the Kremlin entrusted many of its external operations to the Komintern and the local Communist Parties and a maze of Communist Party-controlled NGOs and the deniable, private entities that often do the dirty work on behalf of Saudia, or rent-a-murderer terrorist organizations which are hired for specific actions or make themselves available for the same. Abu Nidals outfit typified this manner. In totalitarian (or highly despotic) countries, nothing important, nothing organized on a grand scale, gets done privately without the involvement and the participation of the powers that be. In a country where the state and a large royal family and its enormous retinue are intertwined to the point of being undistinguishable, there is no distance between the ones and the others, save the distance of deniability. When some groups within the ruling elites do not initiate, or even approve, of such relationships, they are held to acquiescence by the dictates of tribal and institutional self2

States and terrorist organizations are interlinked: terror groups, terrorist chain (logistics, recruitment, etc.), Quangos and NGOs, State agencies, etc.

page 22

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

preservation. Am I going to reveal Prince Turkis business with bin Laden? The argument is strong since even those who did not desire terrorism made themselves complicit, if not by commission, at least by omission or silence.

Terror groups have been able to inflict serious damage to the U.S. and the West by being mobile, nimble, elusive, by being able to choose the timing, terrain and form of their attacks by waging a global guerrilla and by using their enemys own way of life and instruments: from technologies to liberal laws and mores. In that sense early tactics, e.g., the PLOs early hijackings, Arafats deniable and arms length Black September organization, etc., proved successful. They were gradually evolved into strategic tools. PLO terrorism was the crucial experiment that demonstrated the efficacy of terrorism. Scale, frequency and complexity were enhanced. The lack of response, or of serious response, that had greeted the proliferation of terror attacks over an entire generation had created a double calculus:

for the terrorists and their sponsors, the price-earning ratio of terrorism was extremely favorable: price (risk of retaliation) was very low, earning (self-image, propaganda, resulting fundraising and general support and recruitment) was very high; the 1983 slaughter of the U.S. Ma-

rines in Beirut exemplifies that ratio and its increasing values.

page 23

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

for those under attack, the price (damage, loss of prestige, ensuing fearfulness, policy paralysis) was very high, the earning, in case of attempted retaliation, feeble, elusive, questionable. Anti-terrorist operation that never went after the brains, but, if at all, against the fingers or at best the hands, were costly and their outcomes fraught with uncertainty: the counter-incentives were strong.

As long as this double calculus exists and determines policy in the terms posed by the 30-year terrorist offensive, it becomes self-fulfilling. Within that framework, there is no escape from the devils alternative posed to the U.S. and the West. Conversely, breaking this double bind is a key to changing it waging the war: increase not only the transaction costs of terrorism by making it far costlier to all links in the chain.

History presents us with many a case of a lower-level culture successfully attacking, ruining and taking over higher-order cultures. One of the clearest examples is Djinghis Khans Mongols: on a scale of human culture and society plotted by complexity and productivity, the nomadic pastoralist warriors represented a much lower stage than the refined Chinese culture they devastated, than the Northern India they pillaged, than the Abbasid caliphate in Bagdad they destroyed and the Persia they ruined. Nonetheless, they repeatedly spilled out of the Central Asian steppes to assail the sedentary (agrarian) civilizations around them, and were essentially unbeatable until the advent of firearms.

page 24

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The Mongol warriors leveraged their strengths and played against the corresponding weaknesses of their preys. Expert at horse-riding and archery. They succeeded, notably on account of their clever exploitation of the weaknesses of the sedentary cultures.

The latters lack of mobility, tying of working capital to fixed investment in human as well as material terms and difficulty in instantly mobilizing large military power upon threatened points, were the weaknesses. On the other hand, clever use of their own competitive advantage their mobility, their precision and their cohesion, made the Mongols unbeatable for three centuries.

They were however incapable of establishing durable political entities of their own. In some cases, they dissolved themselves into sedentary civilizations, like the Yuen dynasty in China, or their own conversion to Islam in the Middle East and India. Here is a significant paradigm to illustrate and understand how superior cultures the sedentary, agrarian cultures of China, India, Persia and Europe were repeatedly beaten by an inferior form of culture, the nomadic warriors, until the latters inherent weaknesses and the formers inherent strengths were brought to bear. There are lessons concerning the violent encounter of superior and inferior cultures.

page 25

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The rise of the musket, field artillery and other fire-arms, returned battlefield predominance and initiative to the foot-soldier, at the expense of the mounted archer: the Russian armies beat the Golden Horde. Technology made the difference. The same fixed investment which had been the root of the weakness of the more advanced societies, as it created exploitable vulnerabilities, turned out to be the key to generating the instruments of victory.

In short, mobility, precision, nimbleness, the ability to inhabit and move through the dark corridors of todays world, which seem to characterize the enemys weapon of choice, terrorism, may not be absolute weapons. As long as the war is one where an enemy plays his strengths against our vulnerabilities (Mongol nimbleness against sedentary cultures fixed assets), he wins. As we play our strengths against his vulnerabilities, we turn the tables on him.

page 26

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism


The strategy for the war must distinguish between several levels of action: grand strategy, strategy for the war, campaign strategy.

(a) Grand strategy: the ultimate aim of the war on terrorism is has to be to bring the Arab Moslem world into the modern world.

In order to be won, World War Two could not be limit Allied war aims to merely defeating the aggressors armed forces: victory implied transforming the vanquished so that they would no longer pose a threat to their neighbors and to the world at large. In that sense, this war is of the same nature as the war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. There are two basic differences: (1) the distance between Germany and modernity was much smaller, and it was endowed with rich internal (historical, cultural and practical) references allowing it to re-access it promptly, In essence, the Allied victory allowed Germany to complete the Bourgeois Revolution it had repeatedly failed to accomplish in the course of the 19th and early 20th century. (2) Japan was far more distant, but its culture was highly adaptive, able and willing to absorb innovations from the outside and assimilate them. There again, at least parts of a bourgeois revolution

page 27

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

were implemented after 1945. Neither of those cases apply directly to the Middle East. Still, the strategic aim of war must be to bring about some modicum of Rule of Law to the region. Remember that on December 8, 1941, the conscious and the stated war aims of the United States was not the thorough reshaping of the world order. The war was imposed upon the U.S. Strategy and war aims gradually evolved, dictated to a large extent by by the very requirements of the war.


(b) War strategy: our target is what has been dubbed above a complex arrangement of state, infra-state and non-state entities which operate in loose chains and configurations.

To use a crude metaphor, the states are the infrastructure, the non-state entities (NGOs) the superstructure and the infra-state entities (QUANGOs) the conveyor belts.

They nonetheless share some basic values and attitudes. The Middle Eastern policy spectrum, with very few exceptions, centers on an antiAmerican, anti-Israeli and anti-Western stance. Some still want to use the

page 28

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

United States, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia: they play a double game between two opposite poles. For reasons of global strategy, support (aid or military), they find it expedient or necessary to stick to the U.S. in appearance and in some areas, while actively or passively undermining and attacking the U.S. in other areas. Some others find it indesirable to even display the appearance of interfacing with the U.S., as they regard their anti-American niche a more rewarding position: this is the case of Iran and Syria. Some do not feel it expedient to offend the U.S. too much or overtly or in a way that would upset the apple cart, some have upset it already.

The policy spectrum can be defined as:


using the U.S.

The more a country leverages U.S. power, the least it tries to overtly offend the U.S., and conversely

0 0 100 Offending the U.S.

page 29

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The center of gravity of of the policy spectrum must be forcibly removed from the anti-U.S. segment: anti-Americanism must stop being the dead center and the defining center of Arab politics.

We must inflict a series of overwhelming defeats upon the self-conception of those who wage war on us.

A hierarchy must be designed in the targeting:

1. Iraq is the tactical pivot of the war: nothing significant will be achieved in the region until and unless we do away with Saddam Hussein and his regime. Any other course will instruct the entire region that we have chosen make-believe in lieu of acting. This is the chief military component of the war at this stage. Taking out Saddam changes not only key parameters: it changes the rules of the game. Saddams Iraq is the keystone of the dying Pax Britannica that holds the region in deadly thrall. Its destruction opens the way to is the necessary precondition for the reorganization of the region. The matter, then, is both one of credibility and one of efficacy.

2. Saudi Arabia is the strategic pivot of the war: Saudia is the beating heart, the financial center, the ideological core, the religious focus of the war. Once Iraq were taken care of, an ultimatum should be issued to Saudi Arabia with a view to radically cut off private and public, royal and com-

page 30

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

moner Saudi help, financing and participation in anti-U.S., anti-Western and anti-Israeli ideological and religious incitement, terrorist or any hostile activity, including schools, publications, sermons, etc. Non-compliance, the ultimatum should make clear, would entail (1) a direct threat on Saudi assets, (2) the destruction of either the regime, or the country itself, with the Hashemites and the Shiites from the Eastern province key components of what would replace the regime.

3. Iran is presently wobbling. Massive support under all possible forms should be lent to the forces of change, in order to facilitate the domestically-based overthrow of the ayatollahs regime. For two decades Iran has been a leader in the systematic use of terror as a means of external action. Its wholly-owned subsidiary the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah was a pioneer in terrorist action against the U.S. and Western countries, hostage-taking, massive-homicide bombings (the two 1983 Beirut attacks against the U.S. Marine Corps and the French Marines), transcontinental terrorist coalition-making (the 1994 Buenos Aires bombing against the Argentine Jewish community, carried out with the support of Nazi networks within Argentine police and intelligence service), systematic assassination carried out abroad (against Kurdish and opposition leaders) and bombing campaigns abroad (the bombing spree in Paris). Hezbollah actions were remote-controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, the Islamic Foundations and the Pasdarans. Hezbollah is likewise poised to launch a fierce assault

page 31

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

against the U.S., U.S. interests and citizens in the event of an American attack on Iraq. While the utter discredit that attends the Ayatollahs regime within Iran should rule out American military action against them, action must be taken to deter and preempt Iranian action: they must be put on the defensive rather than allowed to choose the timing and terrain of their attacks. The Ayatollahs know that they are playing for the highest stakes, regime survival.

4. The impact upon the terrorist states, Syria in the first place, would be enormous. The Syrian minority (Alawite) regime needs to create an aversive international environment hostility to Israel to maintain its terror grip on the population and keep Lebanon in captivity. In order to do both it requires a continued state of belligerence in the region, which it contributes to maintain by means of fostering the Rejection Front. Otherwise, Syria is a small, backward, bankrupt country (with a grand total of 3,000 internet users!) seething with hatred and self-destructive passions. Funded by the stingy largesses of the petro-monarchies, the drug trade and the looting of Lebanon, Syria has relied upon on its alliance with Iran to survive in the troubled regional waters. Once the Iranian pillar of its strength, and the second pillar of Syrian strength, pusillanimity of U.S. policy (e.g. Secretary of State W. Christophers humble waiting times on the tarmac at Damascus airport, Clintons humiliating Geneva meeting with

page 32

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Assad Sr.) are removed, the presence of U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq must provide a catalyst for regime change there too.

Turkeys decisive action of massing armored Army units poised to invade Syria if Assad Sr. failed to shut down the terror operations of the Kurdish PKK (which it had harbored for decades) and expel PKK chief Ocalan was an exemplary masterpiece minimal, if decisive, use of force, or the credible threat of force.

5. This cascades in turn upon such forces of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian Hamas, etc. One important by-product would be to force Syrian out of Lebanon, thus redressing one of the horrific consequences of the 1990-91 Gulf War coalition: the final awarding of Lebanon to Syria, a sell-out which did so much to convince the region that the United States was feckless, manipulable and able to sacrifice its friends and dependents. Reversing the cause will reverse the effect. But the ripple effects would not be limited to a country: they would send a remarkable message of encouragement to those Arabs who are not inclined toward despotism. For the first time since Arab independence, the United States would be punishing tyranny and encouraging undespotism!

6. The changing of the rules of the game played for more than a half a century in the Middle East, and the changing of key parameters in the situa-

page 33

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

tion (fait accompli toward Iraq, and such) is the environmental factor that sets off changes in the minds and the policies of opportunistic leaders: the entire incentive structure has been transformed. This eminently applies to Egypt, but also bears upon such nations as Algeria, or, farther afield, Pakistan.

(c) campaign strategy: As far as terrorist entities are concerned, the image of Hercules defeating the Titan Antaeus comes to mind: as the latters strength was replenished every time his feet touched earth (his mother the goddess Ge), Hercules held him up in the air preventing his feet from reaching the ground. Antaeus lost his strength, weakened and died. Terrorists prevented from touching the ground of sanctuaries, of major intelligence services and governmental agencies, of government-backed charities, etc., will lose their strength and revert to being simply terrorists rather than proxy weapons in a war. They will revert to sub-strategic levels. As developed above, terror depends (a) on sponsor and supporting countries and (b) on related chains of support: ideology, indoctrination, cadre-training, finance, logistics, etc. If the terror groups are elusive, the chains of support, or much of them, have to be located above-ground and are easier to spot: they represent the relatively-fixed assets of terrorism, the stationary targets without which the moving targets, the terrorist themselves, cannot exist for long.

page 34

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

No strategy in the war on terrorism is possible that does not first and foremost attack the sponsor and supporting countries. The very nature of contemporary Arab and Moslem terrorism dictates it.

Terrorist groups (NGOs) linked to state sponsors, state-sponsor agencies (QUANGOs) through facilitators

Terrorist facilitators

Syria Iran




State sponsors (and their agencies)

Terrorism as a system: state sponsors, state sponsor agencies (QUANGOs), facilitators (the entire chain), terror groups (NGOs) operate as a system. Since there are many states involved, there is no central command, but a dense fabric of shifting mutual relationships, as opportunity and local hatred and interests beckon.

page 35

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism


The operational infrastructure of terrorism and its capabilities must be challenged, whatever else is being done at the level of grand strategy.

The threat is diffuse, decentralized, amorphous: the vexed question of targeting has not been resolved to my knowledge at least even if the successful attack on a primary beehive of terrorism, the Afghan sanctuary, should correct the mistaken view quoted above. But further prosecution of the war forces us to work on some form of a conceptual mapping of the global terror net.

Methodologies employed to date to analyze terrorist groups and activities generally start from terrorist groups; the groups are categorized according to labels (which tend to reflect the policy-outlook of the analyst) which are supposed to be clues and indices of the level of threat represented by the group at hand: big or small, single-issue or multi-issue, local or international, with specific grievances or without a policy agenda, anti-American or not, seeking WMD or not, etc. The result is a crassly static and nominalist understanding of the level of danger posed by those groups3. Elegant two-by-two or two-by-three matrices are gener3

The absurd definitions of terrorism then plunge the analysts who use them into impossible conundrums: thus, the Lebanese Hezbollah is treated benevolently as it never attacked Americans or American interests, or at least not in a long time (!). Another ludicrous argument claims that todays terrorist is tomorrows freedom fighter which allows wondrous dia-

page 36

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

ated and printed on glossy paper. In truth, what is being measured and described is the interrelation of labels attributed to the groups by the analyst, not the groups themselves.

The second, fatal flaw in this style of analysis is that terrorism as described and purportedly measured is analytically divorced from its state sponsors and statebased environment: the analysis operates as if states and governments were some accidental, peripheral adjuncts, sometimes relevant, sometimes not, to some aspects of terrorism. Thus suitably cut off from its most important factor, from its generative level, terrorism becomes an entity floating in its own, unique universe it becomes essentially impossible to analyze, except at ground-level: as a result, there has been very little strategic analysis of terrorism, while tacticaloperational analysis have flourished. Deprived of their higher level of state sponsorship, those are dangerously inadequate and misleading. This analytical fallacy is like claiming to understand World War I or World War II by extrapolating from the analysis of localized, tactical engagements4. It is as if we tried to analyze a boxers style from studying the anatomy of his fingers.

How does this global net of terror operate? Let us first disabuse ourselves entirely of the fashionable notion that some form of netwar is at work, that either

lectical minuets: ultimately, the politicized definition of terrorism is: whoever it suits us today so to label, as distinct from tomorrows creative labeling not to mention moral relativism. 4 There is of course a political reason for this analytical folly: once the analyst includes state sponsors, his entire analysis changes from a law and order approach to a strategic one precisely what has been politically-incorrect for most of the past decade. Since we have diplomatic relations with them, they could not possibly

page 37

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Osama bin Ladens al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations work according to the organizational and operational rules of networked organizations in the sense of ultra-modern distributed or virtual corporations and organizations. The fact that they use the Internet, e-mail communications, etc., is only of significance for the groups communications, but of no importance to understand the fundamental mode of operation of the terrorists.

Rather they operate along the centuries-old structures and procedures of the Brotherhoods which oppositional forces in the Arab and Moslem world had forever found to be the only effective form of self-organization in polities from which open dissent is banned. Clandestine structures designed to minimize exposure in case of discovery are an efficient form of organization in this context. Decentralizing and flattening ones structure just makes sense for any secret organization desirous of reducing its signature.

What is needed, then, for the conceptual mapping, is a clear sense of who are the individuals who connect the bees and the beehives, the beehives and the beekeepers, the beekeepers and their suppliers, etc. The individuals are the operative nodes without which nothing will work, the connecting links which create the coherence and functionality of a decentralized terror apparatus. In a centralized organization, the weak link is the head (and its downward links). In a decentralized organization, it is the connecting joints that maintain its coherence.

page 38

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

This conceptual mapping could operate by using a methodology similar to that of chess computers, itself based on Alan Turings study of chess algorithms. In its evaluation function, the computers calculus integrates

1. the intrinsic value of each pieces: IBMs Deep Blue ascribes a value of 1 to a pawn and a value of 9 to the Queen

2. the relative value of each square: the central squares, d4, d5, e4, e5 are given a higher value than outer squares, e.g., a3, a4, a5, a6 or h3, h4, h5 or h6

3. the positional value of the presence of each piece on each square

with respect to friend: the value of an isolated, unprotected pawn located out of range of its potential protectors, whether pawns or pieces, is inferior, even if it sits on a positionally-important square, to that of a more eccentrically-located pawn that is part of a protective chain

with respect to foe: what is the offensive power or simply the blocking potential of the foes grip on that particular piece or pawn, and the square it is sitting on, and the squares it might reach?)

page 39

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

4. the vulnerability of the King to check, of the Queen to the opponents maneuvers

5. the importance of the piece or pawn with respect to ongoing operations or strategies on either side: this piece is crucial to a given strategy its elimination would cripple that strategy. It is therefore of high positive or negative value, etc., whereas its relative lack of relevance or importance to the main thrust of the players strategy lessens its value. It may just be there to constitute a passive potential threat that nails enemy forces just in case.

All positional and relational situations are thus reduced to numeric values. The computer calculates moves and strategies on the basis of the numeric values.

A delicate problem to solve is that of the weight attributed to all parameters: the weighing, Turing proposed, should be guided by mobility and number of potential interactions in combination with position. In order to evaluate a move and a position, a chess grand-master uses trained intuition, his vast comparative memory bank, he uses pattern recognition and correlates them through some form of fuzzy logic, In the realm of warfare and strategy Clausewitz had labeled it the coup dil, the flash of lightning of higher intuition which in an instant orders all factors in proper hierarchical order. There will be equivalents in the intelligence

page 40

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

mapping, all of which answer the traditional computer programmers notion, garbage in, garbare out, GiGo.

In actual intelligence work, the mapping may proceed along lines of this sort:

Attribute to every discerned function within the global terror map, a certain numeric value according to a scale of importance and effectivity. This provides us with an organizational index number.

Financier, paymaster, logistician, operative, coordinator, propagandist, spiritual (religious) operative, liaison, recruiter, senior officer, staff job, local support, etc., each will be ascribed a given number. The evaluation of the relative value of each function can be based on a number of parameters:

scarcity value of the function: not everyone is or can easily be trained into a good artificer, or paymaster, or planning officer

marginal utility of the function: related to the above. How many such individuals are available for deployment, at what cost, etc.

man/hours required on average to operate the function, and ability to deploy how many individuals to do so

page 41

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Based on operational record, attribute to individuals identified within actual terror groups and supply chains, including charities, government agencies, religiousideological groups, royal families, etc., another numeric value which allows us to determine whether the function also has an operational importance. For instance, a government intelligence chief receives a very high value number as far as organizational index number is concerned. Should his name pop up often in direct connection with terror groups, e.g., when prince Turki of Saudi Arabia negotiated personally with Osama bin Laden, his operational index number, the second numeric value, will be high.

Other parameters of iteration will be (a non-exhaustive list):



frequency of appearance, in organizations, in operations, in overlaps

participation in significant operations

second-order value as measured by frequency of contact with other high-value individuals

page 42

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

personal connections into aristocratic and ruling circles as well as leading religious circles

In order to tally all the different index values, some algorithms will be required (correlation and integration). The integrated total of an individuals index values should aptly describe his operational significance in the overall game. This will supply us with a first target list.

The methods developed by social network analysis, and those derived from MI5s classic traffic analysis, will be helpful to measure the value of relationships, to identify clusters, spider web centers, etc. These are already in use in intelligence analysis. They need to be cross-gridded against the results of our chessgame evaluation. There again, individuals, bankers, propagandists, intelligence service officers, arms dealers, must be scrutinized through the lenses of traffic analysis.

Our mapping will thus take numbers of connections and some qualitative index values into account. Suffice it to say that the aggregate numeric values enable us to construct a map of the global terror stage, where various individuals appear as peaks: they are the essential nodes of terrorism, or so the hypothesis would run. The individuals so described can be made to appear on computer-generated three-dimensional visuals where a relatively important individual takes the shape of a peak while low-level operatives are stuck in valleys.

page 43

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The peak individuals are those whom we need to put under the microscope, whose connecting links we have exhaustively to follow and document, they are ultimately the individuals we need to eliminate. As developed in part I of this report, this can under no circumstances be directed at terrorist groups only: no strategy in the war on terrorism is possible that does not first and foremost attack the sponsor and supporting countries. The mapping and the action derived from it concern the entire chain of terrorism. Attempts at eliminating only segments of the chain allow their easy reconstitution, since the surviving segments can regenerate the missing links. The partial method would resemble attempts at eradicating only discrete areas of tuberculosis infection without tackling neighboring areas. The result is a strengthening of the strain which has become resistant to antibiotics.

Part of the mapping process therefore has to identify the entire chain segment by segment, and define the segments whose destruction will block regenerative processes, and those segments whose destruction would not inhibit them. This supplies us with a second target list.

The method is one of least action and maximum leverage: the capture of footsoldiers of terrorism is beneficial. The elimination of their beekeepers and the beekeepers keepers is far more effective. In that sense, our targeting method bears comparison with Col. John Wardens method of nodal targeting, itself a

page 44

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

highly Clausewitzian concept: maximum leverage created by minimal amount of power and applied where it will have maximum impact.

The very structure of Middle East terrorism has given it a considerable edge in the last three decades: being decentralized and federated, being able to swarm together and dissolve into component units, this very fluidity has made it exceptionally hard for Western agencies to see, to understand and to track. The reverse may also become true that this past advantage now turns into a flaw: such structures are mightily dependent on their joints, on their connecting links.

Take a regular military unit: taking out the lieutenant, or the captain, may certainly weaken it: the loss of a charismatic officer will have an impact on the unit; but the power of drill, of learned and trained and internalized procedures ensure to a large extent the continued ability to fight, to call for, receive and process supplies, to locate itself within a broader hierarchical and operational framework and act accordingly.

An irregular unit may remain self-sufficient intellectually and operationally within the narrow confines of its area of operations: the unit may maintain its tactical abilities. But if it is cut off from a sense of being part of the wave of the future, of being a victorious vanguard, if it is cut off from sources of supplies, of recruitment, of broad social support, etc., it will rapidly degenerate into being a localuse only unit, and even less. Irregular units (or terrorist networks) that are hinged

page 45

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

on individuals whose prestige, charisma, and tribal-clanic importance gives them exceptional value in the organizational scheme, will be all the more vulnerable to their disappearance.

A terrorist unit cut off from its higher-level contacts should react likewise.


In his 1999 piece Why Arabs Lose Wars, Colonel Norvell De Atkine, U.S. Army (ret.) studied some cultural determinants of Arab military defeats in the recent era5. He develops the following main themes:

Arabs husband information and hold it especially tightly Having learned to perform some complicated procedure, an Arab technician knows that he is invaluable so long as he is the only one in a unit to have that knowledge; once he dispenses it he is no longer the font of knowledge and his power dissipates while officers [do] not want enlisted men to have an independent source of knowledge. Specialized knowledge brings prestige and attention In military terms, very little cross-training is accomplished not understanding one anothers job also inhibits a smooth functioning crew.

Middle East Quarterly, December 1999, on line at

page 46

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Education problems: unimaginative training, cut and dried and not challenging, because the Arab educational system is predicated on rote memorization, officers have a phenomenal ability to commit vast amounts of knowledge to memory which generates a diminished ability to reason or engage in analysis based on general. Thinking outside the box is not encouraged: doing so in public can damage a career. The paranoid psycho-cultural environment prevents an easy flow of information.

Officers-vs.-soldiers: enlisted soldiers are treated like sub-humans. But while the militaries from the Fertile Crescent enforce discipline by fear in countries where a tribal system still is in force, such as Saudi Arabia, the innate egalitarianism of the society militates against fear as a prime motivator, so a general lack of discipline pervades. An additional feature is the total lack of a solid NCO corps.

Decision-making and Responsibility: decisions are made vertically with little lateral communication, in a highly centralized manner. As in civilian life, conformism is the overwhelming social norm. Further, trust by delegation is rare. Looking for scapegoats is the norm in the face of failure.

page 47

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Security and Paranoia: a ludicrous security obsession, basically sheer paranoia, is universal.

These traits are pertinent to describe conventional military establishments. But, are they sufficient or adequate to describe terrorist organizations? Do the specific features of terrorist organization (extreme compartmentalization, water-proofing of units, strict need-to-know, strict security discipline, etc.) accentuate or attenuate these characteristics?

All of the traits analyzed by De Atkine can be summed up: Arab armed forces studied over the 1945 to 1991 period exhibited as principal features overcentralization, discouraging initiative, lack of flexibility, manipulation of information and the discouragement of leadership at the junior leadership level6.

As we live, we go to war. All key organizational and often operational features of a military (or para-military) establishment resemble, mimic or parallel to a great extent the main features of the society they serve, albeit through the constraints and transformations imposed by the kind of activity they represent. To wit, the Japanese Imperial Army resembled Japanese society. The Italian Army resembled Italian society. Arab armies mirror Arab societies.

De Atkine quotes the results of a study by Kenneth Pollack.

page 48

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Arab societies are characterized, among other principal features, by excessive centralization at the top, steep hierarchical ordering of relations, high viscosity in information flows, massive disincentives to initiative, rote learning, enormous disconnect between public statements and actual sentiments, group-based identity and loyalty (family-clan-tribe-sect) as opposed to larger identification and loyalty (e.g., state, nation), low trust. All make for an intensely paranoid form of society, where the inside-outside dichotomy is a chasm: one type of behavior prevails on the inside (us) and another on the outside (them).

Arab societies are essentially organized as hierarchically-ordered self-enclosed bubbles (or social monads) defined by some variation of family, clan, tribe and sect. See the well-known saying Me against my brother, my brother and I against our cousins, our cousins and us against the rest of the world, which well illustrates it.

There are countervailing factors. Special forces in some Arab countries, such as Egypt, De Atkine reports, exhibit patterns of behavior that significantly attenuate the saliency of the characteristics features of Arab societies: officers tend to care for their men, there is more sharing of information, etc. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations may share more in the latter than in the former. It is highly doubtful, though, that they could change their nature to the point of exonerating themselves from the general sociology of Arabdom. Still, al-Qaeda, just as the Lebanese Hezbollah, has displayed a high degree of professionalism and techni-

page 49

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

cal competence, a real ability for long term planning and consistency in execution and an ability to maintain a high level of security.

It seems likely that only the small size of al-Qaeda has allowed it to transcend some of the cultural traits inherent to Arab cultures: its unusual degree of cohesion, coherence, motivation and mutual solidarity are typical of a restricted brotherhood, of the type described by ibn Khaldoun to characterize Bedouin sociology, asabiyya, that is, esprit de corps.

Let us assume that the model for, e.g., al-Qaeda, with its deep Saudi roots, derives out of conscious or unconscious design from Abdelaziz ibn Sauds Brotherhood of fanatical Bedouin fighters, the Ikhwan which between 1900 and 1932 was the shock troop of the Saudi empires spread and victory. Indeed, amongst them, the traditional egalitarianism of tribal mores prevailed; discipline was a function of religious-tribal loyalty - and expected booty. The problem with their ilk is that of maintaining discipline and adherence to a goal over a long period of time: without success, without booty, loyalty fades away. At least at the beginning, an organization like al-Qaeda seems to have been forged in the brotherhood of Afghan battles. In most cases, shared hardship and battlefield experience tend to bring leaders and followers even. Was the battlebonding that occurred in Afghanistan carry over into the Jihadi organizations? Strong historical-sociological trends tend to reassert themselves as the original bonding event recedes. This certainly is one invariant lesson in Arab history: short of institutionalizing the band of warriors in the form of a state, they revert to the native fractiousness and anarchy that ibn Khaldoun saw as the nature of the

page 50

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Bedouin7. Just as the lofty ideals of early, conquering Islam soon gave way to traditional Bedouin patterns of belief and behavior, and yielded to the non-Arab mores of conquered peoples, we must assess if possible how the ebbs and flows of victory and defeat influence al-Qaeda from that standpoint. A typical pattern of behavior of the Bedouin is the tendency rapidly to cluster around a victorious and well-endowed, booty-rich emir: troops and loyalties flock to a winner, but they conversely come unstuck and flee as the leader fails to deliver more. Losing makes for a lonely life, and a short one too. Could we then derive a notion of a life-cycle of a terrorist organization? The hypothesis may be advanced that in the Middle East more than elsewhere, terrorist, guerilla and high-fanaticism organizations have a shortened life-span: unless they become a state or a quasi-state the Baath Party in both Iraq and Syria, the Free Officers in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon the culturally-ingrained fractiousness will overwhelm the bonding and make the organization vulnerable. Unless they are nurtured by sponsoring states, they tend to wane. In the twilight world of Islamic terrorism, only the paranoid survive. To survive in the jungle-like world of Arab and Islamic infighting, the permanent civil wars, the luxuriating conspiracies which define the Arab polities, paranoia is a honed skill of the highest value8.

How do we shatter the cohesiveness of the terrorist groups?

Often even the incarnation into a state does not prevent the fractions tendency from reasserting itself. 8 But the case of the Abu Nidal organization shows, paranoia may be an important protective device, it also is a potentially fatal weakness.

page 51

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

As the case of the Abu Nidal organization shows, paranoia may be an important protective device, it also is a potentially fatal weakness. Not that Islamist organizations and cells cannot be penetrated (as per the testimony, inter alia, of former CIA operative Bob Baer).

Middle Eastern terrorism, further, has been lionized and turned into the delusional revenge of supposedly humiliated, frustrated and enraged Arab masses. Osama bin Laden himself has made himself into a pseudo-redemptive icon, a Mahdi-style figure with strong millenarian connotations. A lion that roars is worshipped. A castrated lion in a cage attracts other, less flattering comments. It is trite to say that victories are the best recruiters. But it is a fundamental pattern in Bedouin life and outlook to flock in numbers to the victorious shaikh, who has loot, glory and power to offer, and to desert him at the merest suspicion of defeat.

This can reduce groups such as al-Qaeda to their isolated hard-core. Enthralled supporters will calculate afresh the risks and benefits of being associated to a loser, in the eyes of a more powerful enemy.

page 52

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism



Part I of this report, What Are We At War With? analyzed the causal roots of the present war. Part II, What Is To Be Done? sketched out a design for waging the war. Part III, A Roadmap, will go one level down in the implementation of the war strategy. It will try to outline more concrete ways of going about it at the different levels of action, grand strategy, war strategy, operational and tactical level.


Even more than World War II, no less than the Cold War, the war on terrorism must be a war of grand strategy: the very lack of clearly-delineated fronts, of clean-cut army corps and divisions on the enemy side, the multifaceted nature of the conflict, demand that especial attention be paid to grand strategy. Skirmishes, battlefield events, campaign plans, must of course be prepared and fought. But this war encompasses the cultural and the diplomatic sphere, the work of police and intelligence agencies, psychological warfare and other dimensions. In the aftermath of September 11, the response inevitably was ad hoc, it was reactive action. But as the war proceeds, the extraordinary complexity of the task ahead demands an overarching concept: that supplied by grand strategy. In the first place, war aims must be stated and proclaimed. In 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill issued the Charter of the Atlantic and directed it to the populations of the Allied powers, and to the world at large. The Charter stated their intent, it averred the values for which the war was fought, it outlined the general design of the future world the Allies intended to build. It was a program of action and a document of record. It provided a visible, articulate concept:

page 53

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

nations and individuals were invited to determine their course accordingly; the document defined what it meant to join the united nations fighting the Axis. Likewise today, a manifesto, a program of that kind should be issued. It should address the American people, and the world at large, and address Arabs and Muslims. In essence, it should state (in terms probably more diplomatic than those used here): The fanatics of militant Islam are only capable and desirous of destroying, of killing, of banning. They not only want to destroy the West, they also are a force of destruction for the Arab world. Their order is that of silence, an order of fear, of razed cities, of silenced people. Like the Mongols, they know only devastation. But the Arab world itself, far from reaping the fruits of independence and the oil wealth, has been sinking into a morass of misery and tyranny. Under the rule of tyrants of all kinds, it has failed to find its place in the sun. The Allies are intent on defeating the destroyers. But the war we have waged goes much further. No more shall the Arab Moslem world be excluded by its misrulers from the wave of modernization that has swept aside totalitarian regimes and tyrannical rulers in Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Bloc, in most of Asia, Latin America and in parts of Africa. Modernization does not mean disregard from the high marks of culture and civilization that has been achieved in the history of the Arab world. Modernization may have started in the West, but it has spread to non-Western peoples, and has been welcomed by Japa-

page 54

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

nese and Koreans and by Chinese in Taiwan, by Russian and by Turks. One principal aim of the present war is to help the Arab Moslem world into the modern world. It is to include the Middle East in the sphere of prosperity and stability that has gradually been enlarged with the end of the Cold War. The United States, and the coalition of the willing, are committed to eradicating the scourge of terror, and will use all means at their disposal to win a complete victory in this war, until the world is safe again from the religion-clad totalitarianism that militant Islam represents. But the Allies also commit themselves to supporting the Arab Moslem worlds transition to modernity, non-despotic government, and economic growth. This alliance will not condone or accept the mere replacement of old tyrants by new, of tired autocracies by new ones. The Allies are convinced that the Arab Moslem world cannot and should not be isolated from the rest of the world by a wall of archaism, of parochial denial and delusion. The military phase of the war is necessary. It is not sufficient. The outcome of World War II turned erstwhile enemies into friends and allies because its military phase was only the necessary prelude to reconstruction and transformation. This should be the basis of individual countries membership in the Grand Alliance rather than tactical acquiescence with some vague point in a laundry list of good will. Conversely, there is no point in recreating some pactomania a la

page 55

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

John Foster Dulles. We dont need a CENTO or a Baghdad Pact. We need a warfighting alliance. The manifesto should reflect a new understanding on our part of what it is that we are doing. We are not only fighting terrorists, while we are fighting them. We are fighting what gave birth to them, what gives them energy, the mens rea which causes the actus reus. We are fighting to transform the crucible where the crime is generated every day where the Arab world turns into a hellhole, into a replica of the Hundred Years War or the Thirty Years War, and consequently spreads the pathology to the rest of the world. Contrary to territorial and dynastic wars of old, which aimed at quantitative aggrandizement of territory-based power, the aim of victory in modern war, as it came into being with the War of Independence and the Wars of the French Revolution, is to turn the vanquished foe into a simile of the victor, to spread the victors system over the vanquished foes nation. World War II and the Cold War conform to that rule9. So does the present war.

Grand strategy thus demands to pivot everything not on the tactical requirements of the war, but on its strategic purpose: what will advance the purpose of modernization of the Arab Moslem world while contributing to its necessary tactical defeats? Contradictions between the two requirements must arise and recur as we go along.


In that sense, World War I may be considered a throwback to more ancient forms of war.

page 56

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

A cascade strategy was outlined above in this study (see especially 2.1). It will be specified here in greater detail.

3.2.1. IRAQ: BRING DOWN THE REPUBLIC OF FEAR The war must begin with the assault on Iraq. The fundamental reason for this (besides weapons of mass destruction, the Saddam-al Qaeda connection, terrorism in general as practiced by Bagdad, liberating the Iraqi people) is that the war will start making the U.S. the hegemon of the Middle East. The correlative reason is to make the region feel in its bones, as it were, the seriousness of American intent and determination. An optimal war plan starts from the nature of the regime, its strengths and its weaknesses. The regime keeps the country in its grip with two methods: it wields an highly efficient terror apparatus, which terrifies and terrorizes the populace, and it keeps concentric circles of stakeholders interested in its preservation. The inner circle of stakeholders is the Takriti tribe with its role in all leadership functions and as prime beneficiary of the regime. Outer circles include the non-Takriti (but Sunni) and secret police organization, the top levels of the state bureaucracy, the military (especially the Special Republican Guard, SRG), the Baath Party, etc. The more distant they are from the core, the smaller the stake in regime survival. Intelligence reports from Iraq indicate that a permanent purge is bloodily spreading the terror to all possible circles, at the top no less than amongst the outer circles. The greater the terror, the least the stake. The war must target the terror apparatus at its weakest point: the culture of impunity enjoyed by the butchers, and the oppressed populaces certainty of being at their mercy. How is that done?

page 57

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

As U.S. forces spring into action, as an air artillery assault begins to smash the centralized apparatus of power, the Republic of Fear starts losing its grip. As U.S. forces put their boots in the mud, the stranglehold starts loosening, just as it did in 1991, leading to the Kurds and the Southern Shiites insurrections. The U.S. would be well advised to send in teams to help support and organize the revolt. They are sorely needed, and their mere presence will be a crucial indication for the locals that the Americans mean it, and will not betray them this time. As U.S. intervention progresses, the calculus of power and impotence, of arrogance and victimhood, starts changing. Less compromised officials defect or betray their master and hinder the implementation of his orders, and the ability of his minions to move and act. Fear starts gripping the inner circles. The temptation of betrayal and defecting grows with every blow suffered by Saddam. So does preemptive terror action (pour encourager les autres) on the part of the regime, which further alienates its servants. We do not need 250,000 or 100,000 troops to do that. Whether we need 50,000 is not clear. In order to fight us, the SRG would have to mass its forces, and thus become a target for lethal precision. If it dispersed it would lose its fighting ability. Saddam will want to lure U.S. forces into urban warfare. But he has to assume that the local inhabitants will be either supportive of his forces or able to be coerced by them into supporting him. This gameplan omits the shift in the calculus of fear. It also largely assumes more or less intact chain of command (eletronic in particular) along which the loyalties are tested and preserved. Isolated Generals (or Colonels) may well be liable to kill their political (and Mukhabarat) minders to escape their clutches and be able to make their own deals with the U.S. Urban warfare is a definite possibility, but with much of the populace and breakaway parts of the state and military apparatus on our side. Priming the pump of treason and defection is therefore of great importance. The relevant people must be allowed to mull over the price/earning ratio of their own

page 58

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

actions ahead of time (this holds especially true of those in charge of whatever WMDs are deployed). The e-mail to Haitian military leaders used a few years ago comes to mind. The greater the number of defectors, the greater the number of channels open into potential defectors and traitors. For the U.S., this is a winwin game: if they are reached, they may jump. If they dont they might fall under suspicion and become the targets of Saddams usual methods of pre-emptive retribution. We would not be compromising innocent lambs anyway. Rendering Saddam blind, deaf and dumb, and isolating units from the center, is a crucial task in the air artillery offensive. The Kurds and the Southern Shiites are clearly the first candidates for the process of slicing off chunks of the power structure. If the Southern Shiites as well as the Kurds and others are integrated in a national compact, as the Iraqi National Congress hopes, the latter becomes able credibly to turn to the Sunni minority and issue guarantees that it will not have to pay for the misrule of its Takriti component. Defections can be sped up and broadened. The combination of political warfare, as sketched out here, and air artillery assault, paves the way for the action of ground forces, mostly light and lighter armor in the first waves.


The overall impact of the Iraqi campaign is dual: it galvanizes our worst enemies who understand that they are fighting for their life. The hard-core of Irans ayatollahs around Khamenei et al., the Alawite regime of the Assad family in Syria, the joint venture of both, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the PLO and Hamas, the Saudi regime, to name but the most important, all understand the meaning of the event: Pax Americana is on its way, which implies their annihilation. page 59

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

They respond accordingly. We must expect from Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Hamas a wave of terrorist actions targeting America and Israel, perhaps (but not necessarily) Europe. The prime target is Hezbollah in Lebanon. It may well be the worlds most proficient terrorist organization. It bears responsibility for the humiliation of the United States, the slaughter of its Marines, the American skedaddle out of Lebanon, the kidnapping of American hostages, and uncounted terrorist acts elsewhere. In case of a U.S. assault on Iraq, it poses by its own reckoning an acute danger of war on Israels northern border. Now, Hezbollah is not an autonomous power but a fully-owned subsidiary of Iran, especially of the extremist wing of the regime. It is an arm of Iranian foreign policy. It is an ally of al Qaeda, to which it gives succor and shelter. The American account with Hezbollah is replete with casus belli. While Hezbollah is an Iranian venture, it is critically dependent on Syria: the entire logistical chain of Hezbollahs armament, the thousands of rockets it aims at Israel today in the first place, come from Tehran but transit through Damascus airport. Our first move must be to cut off Hezbollahs lifeline, to stop the flow and strand the planeloads of weaponry it receives from Iran. How do we achieve that? The Syrian regime is weak. As has oftentimes been stated, Syria is a small, poor, semi-bankrupt country run with an iron hand for more than one generation by a small sectarian-tribal minority, the Alawites, who are hated by the Sunni majority. To survive Syria has needed Saudi largesse and the control of lucrative traffics in and out of Lebanon. Syrias apparent diplomatic strength has come largely from Western, including American, willingness to court it in the name of its supposed strategic role in the solving of the Palestinian affair. Once the latter is seen as derivative and not central, Syrias role accordingly fades into relative insignificance. As soon as the Palestinian affair ceases to be seen as the prime mover and principal problem of the Middle East, and is seen

page 60

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

for what it is, a predicate of the Arab regimes refusal to change and modernize, an instrumentalized local conflict. As far as Syria is concerned, its leadership of the Rejection front has until now allowed the regime to collect, harbor and deploy terror groups which in turn have endowed it with formidable blackmail power. Western pusillanimity (Warren Christopher patient wait on the tarmac of Damascus airport, Clintons humble kowtow to the ailing Assad Sr. in Geneva, and Baraks endless propitiation of the same, is what gives Syria strength. Syria must be threatened with the full might of the United States: e finita la commedia! must be the motto. Syria must be coerced into cutting off Hezbollah. American entreaties will be more convincing if proferred from Bagdad. Once incidental advantage would be to terminate Damascus as a source and haven for the destabilization of the new Iraqi regime. There is a model for this: in October 1998, after years decades of Syrian support for the terrorist PKK and its leader Abdullah Ocalan, Turkey massed troops and armor on the northern borders of Syria and threatened immediate invasion unless the PKK operation was shut down instantly and Ocalan expelled. Lo and behold! Hafez al-Assad, the terror of the Middle East, the bugbear of the diplomatic community, the implacable dictator, gave way immediately and meekly complied with the ultimatum. Today, Assad pre is no more. To his iron grip has succeeded the much less assured rule of his son Bashar, who is still surrounded by his fathers minions. The hold that the Elder had upon the country was for sure based on the terror apparatus, but also on his careful cultivation of a network of local and regional vassals, tribal chiefs and elders: he always decided, but always consulted, bribed and bought his way. Bashar does not and cannot. In the feudal hierarchy of Syria, he is relatively isolated. His weakness can be exploited.

page 61

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Syria must be coerced into cracking down directly on Hezbollah something Assad pre did numerous times, when it suited him. Whenever he chose to squeeze Hezbollah, he did so effectively. Syria after all is the occupying power in Lebanon, and a highly effective one. It controls the Beqaa Valley, it controls the main roads, it controls what law and what order prevail in Lebanon. This is the price of regime survival, it must be told. In its all-but-certain conflict with the threatened Hezbollah, it may count on some form of American support. Hezbollah must be deprived of any resupply from Iran. It must be disarmed and defanged. This is a worthy task for the Syrian Army and Mukhabarat in Lebanon. Forcing the Assad regime to do so has the added strategic benefit of driving a wedge between Syria and its closest ally, Iran. Irans ability to run interference in the Arab Middle East is largely predicated upon its partnership with Syria. Once the one is gone, the other goes too. Will Syria comply? Assad, Jr. will weigh the contradictory factors of his survival: facing down the wrath of Iran and the Hezbollah killers, or facing the wrath of the United States and the latters precious ally, Turkey. With the demise of its hated Iraqi twin brother, Baathist Syria loses any strategic depth: it faces utter isolation. The Iraqi campaign must thus be followed with the issuance of an ultimatum to the Syrian regime: shut down Hezbollah, expel and/or hand out those terror organizations that have made Damascus home over the last decades, break with Iran. There are other byproducts to the defanging of Syria and the isolation of Hezbollah: the danger of war with Israel recedes, the backbone of Arafats insurgency against Israel is broken. Arafats Palestinian Authority faces isolation. Further, the weakened Syrian regime cannot hope to keep Lebanon under its boot. Just as Americas flight out of Lebanon in 1982-83 gave a strong impetus to the collapse of the region into hell, Americas return to the region should free Lebanon and

page 62

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

trumpet the return of American power and the reconstruction of the regional order.


Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, the more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter Nearly all the battles which are regarded as the masterpieces of the military art have been battles of manoeuvre in which very often the enemy has found himself defeated by some novel expedient or device, some queer, swift, unexpected thrust or stratagem. In such battles the losses of the victors have been small. There is required for the composition of a great commander, not only massive common sense and reasoning power, not only imagination, but also an element of legerdemain an original and sinister touch, which leaves the enemy puzzled as well as beaten There are many kinds of manoeuvre in war, some only of which take place upon the battlefield. There are manoeuvres in time, in diplomacy, in mechanics, in psychology; all of which are removed from the battlefield, but react often decisively upon it, and the object of all is to find easier ways, other than sheer slaughter, of achieving the main purpose10. Sir Winston Churchill, 1933.

Of course, the sequence of actions outlined in the previous sections is fraught with considerable dangers, not the least of which is the political destabilization of a parlous Arab Middle East. That is what is often referred to with the misleading expression the Arab Street. While this misnomer often represents a convenient alibi for dictators blackmailing of the West, it nonetheless reflects a problem that must be dealt with. We are not operating in a vacuum where each step in the sequence could be taken regardless of events in other countries in the region.


Winston Churchill, The Great War, Vol. 1, p. 498, London, 1933.

page 63

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Iran, for one, cannot be expected to watch the unmaking of its own strategic cobweb in the Arab world without unleashing a furious response, in the form of terror attacks against American, and Israeli, targets. The beleaguered regime is besieged from within, and would need a mobilization of the faithful to arouse energies against American imperialism, and shut up the forces challenging it internally in the name of Islamic and national defense. On the one hand, this creates serious dangers for us. On the other hand, it sharpens the antagonism and hostility between the reactionary clerics and the rest of Irans social-political forces. It is all the more important, then, to afford all possible support to those forces opposing the regime. They need vociferous American support, financial and propagandistic support, public diplomacy on their behalf. The establishment and action of anti-regime media is crucial. We must take a leaf, or several, from the book of World War II, and singularly the British way of war. We need a political warfare executive, like the WWII PWE and its American counterpart, the Office of War Information. The action of the PWE/OWI Outline Plan for Political Warfare, as it was called, was meant to cause the people of the Satellite countries to sabotage the German war effort, bring pressure upon their governments to get out of the war, or overthrow their governments if they resist such pressure. Political warfare itself was rooted in Churchills own view, as quoted at the beginning of this section. A crucial instrument of the psychological and political warfare we must deploy is Arabic-language media. The Arab world traditionally has been characterized by tight state control and stringent discharge of censorship: one Umma, one Rais, one radio, or TV. The everlasting repetition of lies does not turn a lie into a truth, but it bounds the horizon of the listeners to lies only: truth disappears from the world, as shown in Vaclav Havels penetrating analysis of totalitarianism, and the lie becomes common knowledge. The advent of al-Jazeera and Internet has somewhat altered this situation, by introducing a form of pluralism, or by divest-

page 64

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

ing governments per se of their exclusive ownership of news, and their ability to lock their borders tight to any party line that was not theirs. The problem is that al-Jazeera has slanted its contents in a way that is not government-sanctioned, but tilted toward militant Islam. As a result, the situation has worsened. The United States needs to create a Radio Free Arabs, and a satellite television channel with the same calling. What was done toward the Soviet Union and the populations of the satellite countries must be repeated, albeit sui generis, in the direction of the Arab (and Moslem) world. An objective presentation (e.g., Voice of America) is not enough. The radio and television discussed here must be part and parcel of the overall political warfare. It also means that, in keeping with Churchills view, the resources of imagination must come to serve the task of subverting the existing order in the Arab world. To that effect, the contents of the programs should target the weaknesses of our enemies: the archaism of the societies, the autocratic nature of the regimes, the absence of pluralistic debate. Three crucial examples will illustrate the point: Women: a large proportion of airtime should be directed at the most oppressed part of the Arab population, and work for empowering them toward their male masters. Once unleashed, womanpower can accomplish much in subverting the archaic structures and mentalities of Arab societies. This should not be underestimated: sociologically, the place of women is the structuring element in Arab society. Once subverted, the way is open for change. intellectual-political debate: typically, debates (i.e., pluralistic discussions) should be aired on important subjects, from the latest pice by Fouad Ajami or Kanan Makiya, to the recalling of Cairene life at the time of the Nahda in the late 19th or early 20th century. Civilized de-

page 65

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

bates between, e.g., Shiites and Sunni debates where people do not scream but show respect for the other jokes and satire: young Arabic writers should write biting satire about their rulers, but also about bin Laden, etc. There is a rich tradition in Arab history and literature of satirical texts that poke fun at the honor (or lack thereof), the pretensions, the foibles of the mighty. Let us turn that and ridicule bin Laden and the fundamentalists in general. An endless stream of jokes and stories in the same vein played an important psychological role in the de-legitimizing of the Soviet rulers. They can become a focus of formation of a public opinion in the Arab world. There are other topics, but the point should be clear: while we attack Arab societies at their weak point, we also convey the strong points of our society to the Arab population. Arab kids may be attracted to rock music, scantily-clad pop stars and other icons of popular culture, but America has more to offer than just that. Radio Sawa can and should continue its work, but Radio Free Arabia, the television, and the print media that should follow and complete its work, have another role to play. This gives us a capability to intervene in the internal affairs of our supposed ally Egypt, for instance. Direct interventions in the public debate in Egypt, such as the U.S. Ambassadors recent open letter to the intelligentsia, cannot but be few and far between. More mundane, but daily programs manifest our unwillingness to let the government get away with bloody murder every day. We create points of pressure on the government. As part of political warfare, task forces concerned with individual Arab countries should be set up. They should bring together U.S. government officials, Arab intellectuals and dissidents and American non-government figures and be tasked

page 66

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

to elaborate programs and policies, educational and propaganda contents, to be injected into the national situation. The idea that new institutions should be created to fight this war is not novel: the requirements of World War II caused the establishment of OSS, of OWI and many other organizations. This war is so specific, so different in many ways from normal wars, that it requires its own forms of organization. Much useless ink has been devoted to notions of a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. Shimon Peres attempt at putting the cart before the horse in his economicbased New Middle East, has shown a contrario how impossible it is to put the political factors as if in parentheses and hope that economic affairs will be a substitute. Decades of so-called aid to the Third World have equally shown how useless it is to pump economic aid into countries not equipped institutionally to receive, distribute and use it. The Marshall Plan idea, though, has some non-economic merit: it points to the usefulness of establishing specific, new institutions in the concerned countries and areas. One example: if we assume, as will be developed in the next section, that Saudi Arabia may not survive the war in its present form, and further assume that the oil-rich Eastern Province of Hasa may be detached from the current kingdom. Many reasons would militate in favor of some form of a protectorate or mandatory status, which would allow the local population, mostly Shiites, to reap the benefits of the oil resources, from which they have been barred by the alSaud. But it would make no sense to allow them to be the sole beneficiaries of it. For one, they would have to be protected against all sorts of regional predators. Further, one could consider establishing a regional board in charge of managing the oil resources and distributing the proceeds to the entire Arab world, or even to the entire Middle East. The International Gulf Oil Board, if we must give it a name, would then give non-oil Arab states a big stake in the outcome of the political-military campaign.

page 67

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

The reshaping of the political order and of the geography of the Arab world will thus require the establishment of new institutions, new states, even.


TAKING SAUDI OUT OF ARABIA Saudi Arabia is at the heart of the terrorist problem, and of the war. For reasons developed elsewhere in this report, the kingdom both found itself and propelled itself into that situation. The problem is that it is barely possible to disentangle the religious ideology from the political structure, Wahhabi from al-Saud, to unscramble the imperialist spread of Wahhabism from the development of a terrorist international, to separate the regulated form of jihad advocated and supported by the Saudi Royals from the unregulated form of jihad practiced by bin Laden. The Siamese twins share one body but have to heads. Attempts to separate them would result in the death of both. Bin Ladens operation is the spearhead of the general jihadi set of ideas, of practices and of organizations that emanate from Saudi Arabia, from its dominant, institutional, reactionary ulama, and are largely shared by the Royals. The difference is tactical: the ulama only deal with pure ideology, the Royals have to deal with some of the complexities of international affairs. The Royals have lost operational control over bin Laden a long time ago Saudi Arabia as such has not lost

page 68

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

overall strategic control of the jihad. The relationship is somewhat akin to that between the Soviet nexus of Party and Government, on the one hand, and Komintern and mass movements on the other, Stalins NGOs, in a manner of speaking: deniability, arms length status, lower signature. The difference lies with the level of development: the tribal totalitarianism of Saudi Arabia is much looser than the bureaucratic totalitarianism developed in Russia. As a result, the Komintern had much tighter operational control and much fewer rogue or simply impatient units. Bin Laden is an impatient Crown Prince Abdullah. The utter unwillingness manifested for fifteen months now by the Royals to do anything serious against terrorism in their midst, their clear refusal to join the war, and the campaign against Iraq, are only the straws that finally break the camels back. An ultimatum should be issued to the Saudis. In a way, it resembles that issued in July 1914 by Austria to Serbia: executing the terms would be committing national suicide. Rejecting them would precipitate war. The great merit of the ultimatum in question is to clarify the problem down to its simplest expression: are you with us or against us? If with us, purge yourselves thoroughly, at great risk to yourself. If against us, well purge you, at total risk to yourselves. The sudden emergence of a Gorbachev empowered and willing to cleanse the kingdom and allow it to come clean is highly unlikely, but must not be discounted, if only for diplomatic reasons. The ultimatum should demand that the kingdom as such stop the generation, the spread and the export of Wahhabi doctrines except for private purposes and of jihadi doctrines, of incitement and instigation against the West, America and Israel;

page 69

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

that school books, educational material, school and academic curricula, that audio, video and print propaganda, that correspond to the henceforth-banned doctrines, stop being produced and disseminated;

that no sermon of that type pronounced wheresoever and in whichever part of the kingdom, no predication of any sort, be allowed, and that any attempt in this direction be harshly dealt with; that the relevant predicators and missionaries be arrested and dealt with;

that all the missionary organizations devoted to the international spread of Wahhabism be immediately dissolved, their assets impounded, their leaders arrested;

that whosoever has been involved in incitement and instigation be arrested and surrendered to the American authorities;

that all charities, financial institutions and other channels used to fund the Wahhabi imperialism and jihad be dissolved, their assets sequestered, their top managers brought to trial, a number of them surrendered to U.S. authorities;

that the files of the Saudi intelligence service relevant to the Wahhabi jihad be surrendered to U.S. authorities;

that all international funding of mosques, madrasas, cultural centers and religious organizations, be terminated;

that all individuals who have been in relations with bin Laden, al-Qaeda and related operations, be surrendered to U.S. authorities, however high and exalted their standing within Saudi society including former chiefs of the intelligence service.

page 70

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

Compliance with the terms of this ultimatum are fairly easy to monitor: in most cases, we are not seeking unknown quantities and fumbling in the dark. Failure to comply would trigger active measures on the part of the United States. A real threat is one which threatens something dear to the object of the threat. In this case, control over the oil, the money, the Holy Places and the state. The occupying of the oil fields is not a difficult military task; contingency planning is at the ready; the Saudi Army is a joke. To dispose of them, there might be a case to involve the inhabitants of Hasa, the Eastern province where the oil fields are located, most of them Shiites. Further, we might want to propose an international protectorate to keep predators away, with a Middle Eastern Oil Authority in charge of managing all aspects of the oil economy, and distributing the proceeds in a way that benefits all Middle Eastern countries a good way of giving especially Arab countries a stake in this solution. Similarly, a number of leading U.S. oil companies could be told that they would retrieve part of their former ARAMCO positions, without the al-Saud, that is, which might incite some of them to shed their loyalties to the House of Saud. Existing legislation enables the U.S. government to sequester enemy assets in wartime. They were applied to Iran after 1979. They should be applied in this case. Granted, the Saudis have placed considerable investments in the U.S. Not all of those are liquid. For the Saudi financial managers, pulling out the liquid part short-term deposits, stocks, Treasury bills may be less easy than meets the eye. A large part would flow back to the pool in any circumstance, which would not harm the U.S. (e.g., CDs pulled out of Chase and placed with Deutsche Bank: the latter would immediately purchase the equivalent amount in U.S. T-bills). Stocks could suffer automatic NYSE triggers should allow supervising authorities to stop the outflow as a politically-motivated

page 71

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

menace to national security. At any rate, the regime and its component parts must be deprived of their financial means of action. The al-Saud became the Guardians of the Haramayn, the Holy Places, eighty years ago. After we deprive them of that religious legitimation, there are two possibilities to replace them: either a traditional Arabian family, such as the Hashemites, or an international Muslim collegium entrusted by consensus to oversee Mecca and Medina, and the hajj. Muslim authorities al Azhar, the Zitouna, the great Islamic universities and institutions, the communities around the world could be called upon to designate their trustee. The Saudi state is no intangible affair. To this day, the Hijazi resent and loathe those whom they call occupiers and usurpers, the alSaud. Hijazis, part of the international trade routes connecting the Orient to the Mediterranean, were ever more advanced than the Nedji Bedouins. The idea of their independence is not fanciful. Whether the people of Asir, in Arabias Southwest, would want to be independent or join the Yemen, should be left up to them. The Shiites of Hasa should get their independence. Just as Mehmet Alis son Ibrahim dismantled the first Saudi empire 170 years ago, the second empire should go. The Saud family would then be freed of the burdens of oil, money, territory and state, and free to worship as they wish, provided this is limited to the Nedj desert and its oases.

Removing the Saudi regime from the scene results in the unshackling of the Arabs and the Muslim world at large. As such, it is not sufficient to attain victory in the war, but it certainly is the fundamental precondition.

page 72

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

THE PALESTINIANS Nowhere will that be clearer, perhaps, than with the Palestinian movement: as long as it feels itself the delegate, the proxy for the rest of the Arabs, in accomplishing what is supposed to be the central task and mission in Arab life, the destruction of Israel, and as long as lavish funding comes from the Arab countries, Saudi Arabia in the first place, it will only be a force for chaos and destruction. The Palestinian movement, PLO, Fatah, P.A., Hamas, has historically been the matrix for Arab and Moslem terrorism. It also is one of the main hubs in international terrorism. Cutting it off from Iraq, from Syria, from Hezbollah, from Saudi Arabia, is to smother this giant terror hub. Deprived of the terror option, the Palestinian scene suddenly looks very different. Not that the hundreds of trained homicide teenagers will disappear: they will persist for some time, just as the thousands of operatives and foot-soldiers that went through al-Qaedas training courses and camps. Once the focus of Arab life shifts from the obsessive fixation on destroying Israel to some notion of reconstruction, the chief instrument used for more than half a century to consume and possess Arabs away from the modern mission of nationbuilding and economic growth, i.e., the Palestinian cause, is finally cut loose from the obsession. Terrorist organizations become fishes out of water. The stranglehold enjoyed by Arafat and the rest of the terror apparatus starts waning. The way becomes freer for genuine Palestinian reformers, and the democraticminded Palestinian leaders called for by, e.g., Natan Sharansky, can show their faces in public with less certainty of being killed. The Palestinian problem returns to its real, derivative and secondary status: it becomes tractable. It is incumbent upon the United States to give extensive support to Palestinian reformers and democratically-minded leaders. Financial support, media exposure, diplomatic and public assistance must be forthcoming, as well as help to

page 73

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

rewrite schoolbooks, to establish obsession-free media, to create political parties and civil society organizations.


Historically, demographically, intellectually and to some extent religiously, Egypt is the fulcrum of the Arab world. After the assassination of Anwar Sadat, Hosny Mubarak set a single-minded principle for his dictatorship: he would not be killed like Sadat. As a result, his policy has forever been one of balancing out the centrifugal forces of Egyptian society, and the forces at play in Arab society at large. The terrible legacy of more than twenty years of his rule lies in two aspects: what he has done give a much freer rein to Islamists in the public, academic, corporate, religious and intellectual spheres while ruthlessly repressing Islamists when they use violence which has demoralized, subverted and rotted Egyptian society and public life and what he has not done devoting the countrys resources and energy to economic growth, investment, infrastructure, education, etc. Egypt is overwhelmed by its demographic growth. It has become a Malthusian basket case. The result is an explosive mix. Traditional Moslems and modernist Arabs have been marginalized, hounded out of the public scene, while the virulent press endlessly incites hatred and violence against Israel and the U.S. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis, the remainder were Egyptians. Mubaraks ability to gyrate with the prevailing winds offers us the temptation of relying on his opportunism: why not let him crack down on the Islamists once we have terminated their power elsewhere, and benightedly allow him to stay in power without policies being changed isnt he our friend after all? That would be a sure recipe for disaster. The pivot of the Arab world is the most important page 74

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

one to transform in depth. Iraq may be described as the tactical pivot, the point of entry; Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot; but Egypt, with its mass, its history, its prestige and its potential, is where the future of the Arab world will be decided. Egypt, then, in the new Middle Eastern environment created by our war, can start being reshaped. From our standpoint, though, Egypt has to come up at a later stage of the strategic course presented here: it cannot and should not be tackled prior to the fall of Saddam, the cracking of Syria and Hezbollah, and the abasement of the Saudis. It will become possible to tackle the essential issue that of a useless, dysfunctional tyranny once the above have been successfully carried out. In the meantime, pressure must come down hard on Mubarak and his regime to stop pandering to militant Islam, notably in the abominable Egyptian media. The 41-part teledrama Horseman Without A Horse, based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and spread to the entire Arab world, is part of the terrorist assault on the West.

NOTE: BEYOND THE ARAB WORLD This report has examined the principal breeding ground of international terrorism, the Arab world. A more complete study should examine the case of Pakistan, in particular, a non-Arab Moslem nation whose evolution has been powerfully reoriented by Saudi-Wahhabi intervention over more than three decades.

page 75

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism



If Arab and Moslem terrorism is to be eradicated, the Middle East must be thoroughly transformed. To bring to an end the threat of endless and increasingly devastating terror strikes against the continental United States, the economy, American influence and interests in the world, there is no other way no more than the Nazi threat could be appeased or circumscribed, or the Soviet threat passively allowed to fade away. Our vulnerability is that of a complex organism that pays its greater efficiency by greater immediate vulnerability. Our strength is our ability to mobilize ourselves to compensate for our vulnerabilities, and our willingness to go to the offensive. One vulnerability is our desire for quick fixes, and our reluctance to accept a mission of reshaping a region, a culture, a religion. That is nonetheless the price of victory. The Treaties of Westphalia in 1648; the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15; the series of treaties that flowed from the Versailles deliberations; the post-1945 redrawing of the world map: seen in historical perspective, this is what the outcome of the war on terrorism has to be. The vast Arabic-speaking world will be brought into the West, surprising though this may sound: it is the only way for it to be saved from chaos, lest that chaos engulfs us as well. The period of great turmoil ahead resembles the process Dean Acheson called Creation.

page 76