"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Monday, November 22, 2010

Operation: Hemorrhage

That is what AQAP has titled their new wave of assaults, as told by the latest issue of Inspire, everyone's favorite magazine.  (It was also the name of my prom.  Ba-dum ching!) The issue is a gloating one, somewhat hastily thrown together, and based entirely on what they call the success of the cargo bomb plots.  It goes into somewhat remarkable detail on how the bombs came together and on how they managed to avoid security, while also taking credit for the Sept. 3rd downing of a UPS plane.  It mostly avoids the cartoonish absurdity of the last issue, though it does devote a couple of pages to a fake bulletin board with quotes "from friend and foe."  AJG friend and Yemen expert Chris Boucek made the cut, with a quote and picture.  Chris, I imagine this is a highlight.  There is also a section of rhyming couplets called "Leverage", which seems to be mostly culled from Inspiration posters- "Shooting high for the skies/is greater than living a life of lies", except for the one in the middle about Israeli massacres and American crimes, which actually might be Ezra Pound.

But the silly stuff isn't what I want to talk about here.  I think it is rare that a terrorist group not only exactly divines, but also trumpets, exactly how they can hurt us.  There is some throat-clearing about how maybe there will be another 9/11, but the name itself implies knowledge of our security hysteria.  For a very, very small cost they have managed to send us into a tizzy, costing us billions and furthering their stature.  Our outrage has propelled them into the center-stage of jihad, which will help them in their near-term goals of getting rid of Salih and then beginning to work on the Saudi royals (I don't think the latter is realistic, but the attempt to get there could be painful and bloody).

Our greatest weakness is over-reacting; we seem to think that nothing should go wrong ever.  Any time AQAP, or any AQ branch, manages something, there is breathless round-the-clock fear-mongering, with fiery exhortations about whose head should roll.  Terrorism and counter-terrorism are often just tools in the political horse-race, with both parties climbing over each other to prove who is more serious (though, in an attempt not to be David Broder, the claim of "weak on terrorism" is an almost exclusively Republican tactic, but the Dems match that by trying to be overly muscular).

It is somewhat disconcerting to think how much AQAP understands the American mentality, although it isn't exactly hard to divine.  For every action, recently anyway, there is a wildly disproportionate reaction.  It is decent of them, though, to give us a backward blueprint outlining exactly what we should do.  On their own, AQAP can't hemorrhage us.  They can feint and strike and have mild, even strong, successes.  But while it seems like they are puppeting us, it is possible to cut the strings.  The triumphant tone of this Inspire is a little hyperbolic, and with an air of protesting too much, it is a difference of degree, not type.


There was also a line in there about how this is a war of information and technology.  It would be nice if the political class had as much understanding about the battle we are in as our enemies do.

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