Counter-Terrorism: No Credit Where Credit Is Due


September 25, 2009: For political, diplomatic and anti-Semitic reasons, it's not likely that the Israelis will get the credit they deserve for the defeat of Islamic terrorist groups throughout the world. But it was Israeli concepts and tactics that helped bring Iraq IED (roadside bomb) casualties down from a high of 84 a month in May of 2007, to a low of 9 in May of 2008. While the new armored vehicles (MRAPs) and other technology (jammers and UAVs) played a role, it was the Israeli concept of going for the brains behind the bombs, that tore the heart out of the Islamic terrorist organizations in Iraq. The same approach is being used successfully elsewhere, from Somalia, to Saudi Arabia, to Afghanistan and on to the Philippines and Indonesia. Islamic nations tend to credit the United States (if they credit any foreigners at all) for these successful tactics. But it was Israel that pioneered this approach, and made it clear that it worked, and how.

The armed forces of the U.S. and Israel have long worked together, to exchange tactics, techniques and technology. One of the items the Israelis shared was the tactics they developed to defeat a Palestinian suicide bombing campaign that began in 2000 (after Palestinian radicals refused to accept a recently negotiated peace deal).

The Palestinian terrorist groups still say they are going to destroy Israel. But as a practical matter, the current round of Palestinian terrorist violence is over. You can see this by the sharp decline in successful terrorist attacks, and the frequent pronouncements from the terrorists groups that they are going to behave, for a while anyway. What the terrorists really want is to avoid any more of the Israeli tactics that shut down their terrorist operations. This included going after terrorist leaders and technical specialists, and either capturing or (failing that) killing them. Raids and air attacks were made against buildings used by the terrorists, and tight security on Israelis borders were instituted. This last measure crushed the Palestinian economy, which put popular pressure on the terrorists to stop their attacks, and promise to keep it that way.

The Israelis also set up an increasingly effective intelligence system inside Palestinian territories. What the Israelis basically did was "take the war to the enemy." This is an application of the old maxim, "the best defense is a good offense." This particular war is still going on, but the Israelis only adopted their winning tactics in 2003 and two years later the terrorists were rendered largely ineffective.

Egypt and Algeria defeated Islamic terrorists during the 1990s using traditional methods (attacking everything in sight), and it took longer and was bloodier. The Egyptians defeated the Moslem Brotherhood (and the survivors fled to help found al Qaeda). Algeria finally defeated a similar movement only in the past year, the Egyptian campaign took most of the decade. Syria crushed the Moslem Brotherhood in the early 1980s, after five years of violence. These three Arab nations are all police states, and were able to deploy large numbers of police and soldiers that spoke the same language as the terrorists. Israel also had a large number of terrorists who spoke Arabic. Many had grown up in Arab countries, or had parents who had done so. What all these successful campaigns had in common was aggressive tactics that took the battle to the enemy.

For the rest of the world, treating terrorism as if it were just a police matter, allowed the terrorists to continue building support, and the ability to launch more attacks. But by going into the terrorist neighborhoods, you disrupt their planning and recruiting efforts, and eventually destroy the network of support. The United States clung to the police approach throughout the 1990s, and the attacks continued. Only after September 11, 2001, was the war carried to the terrorist heartland, and the attacks in the U.S., and against American targets elsewhere, ceased. The terrorists were forced to defend their base, and in doing so they killed many Moslems, and turned Moslem public opinion against them.

But going into Iraq worked a lot more effectively when the Israeli tactics were applied. This not only killed or captured key terrorist leaders and technicians, but demoralized many potential Islamic terrorists. Al Qaeda was exposed as a bunch of remorseless murderers who enthusiastically killed Moslems as well as infidels (non-Moslems). That cost al Qaeda their public support in the Moslem world, while the Israeli tactics cost al Qaeda its key people.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close